Illinois 'moment of silence' law upheld

Oct. 16, 2010 at 3:42 PM
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CHICAGO, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- An Illinois law mandating a moment of silence in schools has been reinstated by federal judges who decided it did not impose religion.

On a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago Friday reversed a decision that the law requiring a moment of "silent prayer or silent reflection" to start the school day was unconstitutional, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The judges noted that the law does not specify that the silent time be used for prayer, and that legislators who passed it said the moment of reflection also had the secular purpose of calming students at the start of the day.

"Nothing in the text … limits students' thoughts during the period of silence; the text mandates only one thing — silence," wrote Judge Daniel Manion.

But dissenting Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote, "Let's call a spade a spade -- statutes like these are about prayer in schools."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, which defended the measure, welcomed the ruling.

Dawn Sherman, a Buffalo Grove High School student who challenged the law, and her father, atheist activist Rob Sherman, plan to appeal.

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