Another blow to the school prayer crowd was delivered in federal court yesterday, as the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman.
The “teacher is required to instruct her pupils, especially in the lower grades, about prayer and its meaning as well as the limitations on their ‘reflection,’” Gettleman ruled.
“The plain language of the statute, therefore, suggests and intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools,” he said.
The words “Student Prayer” are right in the title of the act, so I’d wager it’s pretty obvious what the act was intended to do: encourage students to pray. Telling children when they should pray is just as bad as telling them who they should pray to. Would you want children to be instructed to face Mecca when they pray, or reflect silently? This law would have schools not only tell children when they should pray, but also at what volume. I don’t understand how any religious person could accept the idea of secular teachers (who could be evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, atheists, etc) telling their children when and how to pray.
And before you start talking about the Religious Right, know that this legislation is the brainchild of a Chicago Democrat.
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Chicago, the chief sponsor of the legislation, said she hopedwould appeal.
“I strongly feel and I still believe that children should have aat the beginning of the school day,” she said in a from Washington, D.C., where she celebrated the inauguration of President Obama.
Students need books, computers, art, music, qualified teachers, extracurricular activities, safety, and parent involvement in their education. A moment of silence is vastly less important, and if parents feel their children it, they can do it before they leave for school. Muslims pray 5 times a day; the first is at sunrise (before students get to school in warmer months) and the second is after noon. So I can imagine having an extra prayer slot prescribed for them by the state might feel pretty uncomfortable.
There is nothing stopping students from praying in school; you should see some of them on a test-taking day. Let’s face it – this isn’t about religious parents wanting their children to be able to pray, this is about religious people wanting all (or most) students to pray and become more religious.
And if my future children ever find themselves at a public school in which they are instructed to “pray or remain silent”, I will encourage them to sing their prayers out loud, in Hebrew, until the teacher throws them out of the room.