Moment of silence mandated in Ill. schools
CHICAGO -- Students in Illinois started school Friday with a state-mandated moment of silence intended to provide for personal reflection in the wake of school shootings.
Advocates from the spiritual community lobbied state officials to provide students with a neutral moment of silence, side-stepping the controversial issue of school prayer.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, the bill’s primary sponsor, told the Chicago Sun-Times the moment of silence may provide an opportunity for students to gain peace of mind, which may prevent incidents such as the recent school shootings by a 14-year-old Cleveland student.
Opponents, however, worried that the mandatory nature encroached on the separation of church and state. State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said the measure “doesn’t mandate school prayer, but let’s face it -- that’s what this is about.”
State lawmakers voted 74-37 to approve the measure, overriding a veto by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who claimed the legislation advocated school prayer in public schools, the Sun-Times said.
The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory school prayer in 1962, however, a 1969 Illinois law provides teachers with the option to allow brief moments of silence at the beginning of the school day.
Rob Boston, a spokesmen for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said that a neutral observation would likely survive a court challenge, so long as there is no “religious coercion,” the Sun-Times reported.
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