Illinois’ Mandatory Moment of Silence Bill Is Just Prayer in Disguise

This story never fades.

Last year, Illinois passed a Mandatory Moment of Silence and Prayer Act. After being sued, it was changed it a Voluntary Moment of Silence bill. Even that version was struck down as a “sham” by a judge.

That’s old news.

Now, Attorney General Lisa Madigan (a possible candidate to be the next Illinois Governor) is appealing the ruling striking down the law.

Here’s the kicker.

Atheist Rob Sherman, a vocal critic of the bill — his daughter’s lawsuit put a halt to the original version — appeared in Springfield earlier this week in support of the revised bill.

So how did the members of the Illinois education committee react?

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn explains:

[Sherman] candidly admitted to the committee that he fears the appellate court will rule in favor of the language of the old law — the one that emphasizes prayer. So he sees the proposed new law — the one without prayer — as an acceptable compromise.

This, [the original bill's sponsor Kimberly] Lightford told me, threw the members of the education committee for a loop. Sentiment quickly formed that, rather than take prayer out now, they ought to wait and see if the federal courts will let them keep prayer in.

They halted a vote on the bill in mid roll-call and tabled it, even though passing the law would have rendered Sherman’s lawsuit moot and saved the state the expense of pursuing the appeal.

Poof! went all pretense that this mandate has any other purpose than to foster and promote religious exercises in public schools. Poof! went the credibility of Kimberly Lightford and others who insist — who continue with a straight face to insist! — that this mandate has everything to do with education and nothing to do with prayer.

I dare them to try passing the law and enforcing it. It won’t work. Most teachers are smart enough to see there won’t be any consequences for ignoring it. Furthermore, the law is unnecessary. No one is stopping students from praying right now.

There’s no need to force all public school students to join in during Christian Prayer Time.

Like Zorn, I’m surprised Sherman is in support of the “compromise” bill. I understand he fears the worst, but there’s no need to settle for the lesser of two silences.

(via Change of Subject)

  • Wes

    Like Zorn, I’m surprised Sherman is in support of the “compromise” bill. I understand he fears the worst, but there’s no need to settle for the lesser of two silences.

    Are you sure he’s genuinely in support of it? Maybe he was seeing if he could get a response like this, exposing their real intentions.

    And maybe not. I really don’t know much about the guy, or whether he could be that wily or not.

  • GullWatcher

    Perhaps this gives us a new way to change the world? Find something you disagree with or dislike, and publicly state “I’m an atheist, and I support this” and then just watch it wither away….

  • Vincent

    Yeah, he could be brilliant!

  • MV

    I dont understand why he supports the new bill, but I cannot deny the results were great. Now, no matter which version of the bill they pass, it will be colored by the want of prayer to be involved.

    Now, neither bill will pass.

  • http://www.rationalitynow.com Dan Gilbert

    It constantly aggravates me to hear Christians say that we’re “removing prayer from schools” when, as you stated, Christians can pray whenever and wherever they want. It’s obvious that their motive isn’t to allow students to pray. It’s their attempt to force EVERYONE to pray.

  • postsimian

    Dan, you nailed it.

  • Christine

    The bill never stated that students had to take part in the bill, it just stated that public schools must set a side a time for prayer or contemplation. The student’s participation isnt mandatory. Sherman needs to have a stronger arguement. Right now it just sounds like he is saying the government is forcing my daughter to pray. This is definitely not the case. They can’t force Dawn to pray. In fact they can’t even force her to stay silent during a moment of silence. Making the christians look like bad guys wont win a case. Sherman says that a law requiring public schools to lead students in a moment of silence violates a citizens first amendment rights and is therefore unconstitutional. The problem in this arguement is that christians will fire back that by not allowing prayer in schools is also violating first amendment rights. (That is if they grow some backbone and speak up about it.) Sherman must prove that A)that the government is forcing religion on his daughter and B) this can cause her harm. Students have a choice in whether they wish to participate in PRAYING during a moment of silence. They can be doing anything from studying for a test to contemplating the rest of their day. As long as students have that choice, Sherman will have a hard time winning his case.

  • john

    Have any of you ever really experienced a moment of silence??? It is kind of like a “time out” only you also take thought out as well. One of the greatest moments of this I experienced was among throngs of fellow experiencers within days of 911. While teaching people on how to experience “silence” may not be within the curriculum of public schools, since they are more interested in filling our children’s heads with information and opinions, silence in and as it is, has nothing to do with religion or prayer.


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