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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Public prayer in schools? A letter from the Midwest

I dropped my five-year-old son off at his public school yesterday only to hear the principal come over the intercom and say that, due to a new state law, they would begin the day from now on with a "moment of silence for personal reflection or prayer."

Excuse me???

That's right. I live in Illinois, the only state with the good sense to require a physical education program for students, but the only state now dumb enough to apparently mandate prayer in schools.

I understand that the principal was reading a portion of the law almost verbatim, but he chose to ignore the portion that says "it is not intended as a religious exercise," and to read the portion that says "for reflection or prayer." Probably not a big deal in a high school setting, but I doubt my five-year-old, or many others, could even define "silent reflection," so to them, their only option is prayer.

Governor Rod Blagojevich had previously vetoed this particular bill, citing a violation of separation of church and state. But the Senate overrode the veto last week. The House did the same Thursday, voting 74-37. What the hell is going on in this state? There was previously a law in effect which stated the same thing, but it allowed teachers to lead a moment of silence. The difference is, now they are required to do so. I guess perhaps before, no one was doing it.

The law as it appears on the books can be found at the below address. I have pasted it at the bottom of this missive as well. AARGH! I'm just pissed off! "The Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act"! Indeed!

Here is the link to the full text, found below:


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Public Act 095-0680

SB1463 Enrolled LRB095 09404 NHT 29600 b

AN ACT concerning education.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
represented in the General Assembly:

Section 5. The Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act is
amended by changing Section 1 as follows:

(105 ILCS 20/1) (from Ch. 122, par. 771)
Sec. 1. In each public school classroom the teacher in
charge shall may observe a brief period of silence with the
participation of all the pupils therein assembled at the
opening of every school day. This period shall not be conducted
as a religious exercise but shall be an opportunity for silent
prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities
of the day.
(Source: P.A. 76-21.)

Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon
becoming law.

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"The war is on, the lines are drawn
but there's a lot of people saying that we've already won.
How can they believe that we have reached the end
with 'In God We Trust' on every dollar we spend?"

- Electric Hellfire Club, "Unholy Roller"