Illinois Mandatory Moment of Silence Law Was “Sham,” Says Judge January 21, 2009

Illinois Mandatory Moment of Silence Law Was “Sham,” Says Judge

Remember last year when Illinois had to deal with an absurd mandatory Moment of Silence law?

High school student (and atheist) Dawn Sherman filed a lawsuit to put a stop to it (via her father Rob Sherman).

Today, a final ruling (PDF) was issued on the matter from Judge Robert Gettleman.

After discussing various aspects of the case, the judge remarked on the proposed Moment of Silence amendment and how it was really a veiled attempt to bring prayer into the classroom despite it’s innocuous-sounding name:

For all of these reasons the court concludes that the amendment has no clear secular purpose, and that the stated purpose is a sham.

Truer words were never spoken. Especially considering the history of the proposed bill.

We all owe Dawn and Rob a debt of gratitude. And as a public school teacher in Illinois, I thank them for making sure I don’t have to implement anything as absurd as this moment of silence in my classroom.

(via Change of Subject)

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  • Beth B.

    When I was a student in Virginia public schools (a far-off 5 years ago) we also had a moment of silence. Too bad no one’s tried, to the best of my knowledge, to get rid of ours yet. Unfortunately the extent of my own protest against mindless ritual in high school was refusing to say the Pledge every day.

  • PrimeNumbers

    Got to keep fighting. This is a good one to win.

  • Siamang

    Thanks for reporting on this.

  • geru

    Seems like a case of “Of Pandas and people”-style updating, the verdict mentions that the same bill has been around since 1969, back then it stated that students “will pray” during the silence. Later it was changed so it would say that students “may pray”.

    It just seems like these people are so desperately trying to get any mention of their beliefs and practices into the law.

    If they’re going to get the law passed, they’ll need to change it so it’ll include even more beliefs and practices. My suggestion for the new title is:

    Mandatory Moment of Silence, Meditation, Voluntary Prayer or Sacrifing of Small Livestock.

    That oughta please everyone. 🙂

  • I can certainly think of a secular purpose for a ‘moment of silence’ – mindfulness training. Although it’s got Buddhist roots, a significant corpus of evidence is beginning to emerge that shows that mindfulness training has all sorts of benefits (cognitive, behavioural, health, developmental, moral… you name it, someone seems to have shown a link to mindfulness!), and it doesn’t need to be in a Buddhist context at all.

    OK, I realise that in this case there certainly didn’t seem to be any secular purpose – it was very much covert institutional prayer. But go ahead & introduce your moment of silence daily, I say – or even at the beginning of every lesson – but provide some basic – secular! – mindfulness instruction along with it.

    Somehow I doubt that those involved in this suit would be advocates for this sort of plan…

  • How about a Mandatory Moment of Learning instead? It could even last the whole day.

  • I fricken cheered when I read this! Ever since the bill was passed, the fundie neocons down here in Peoria have been in denial about the bill’s true purpose as a back door to classroom prayer. But despite their past characterization, how many do you think will be outright upset or disappointed about this ruling. How many more will call it an attack on their faith, thereby jumping the shark and confirming what we suspected all along?

  • Desert Son

    Good news, thanks for posting that.

    No kings,


  • nuri

    I cheered when I read this. I left TAing a few months ago, and while not an Atheist, I hated hated hated this law.

    Trying to get my students back into learning mode sucked.

    ps: I believe I worked at the same school you do, though not at the same time. Small world.

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