A federal appeals court last week upheld an Illinois law requiring schools to observe a daily period for “silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day.”
A majority of the three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, said the Illinois statute was unlike an Alabama moment-of-silence law that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985. The high court held in that case, Wallace v. Jaffree, that Alabama lawmakers had no secular purpose but instead an asserted legislative interest in returning prayer to the public schools.
“Conversely in this case, [Illinois] has offered a secular purpose for Section 1—establishing a period of silence for all schoolchildren in Illinois to calm the students and prepare them for a day of learning,” U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel A. Manion wrote in Sherman v. Koch.
He noted that since the Wallace decision, four other federal appeals courts have considered moment-of-silence laws: New Jersey’s was struck down, while laws in Georgia, Texas, and Virginia were upheld.
A version of this article appeared in the October 27, 2010 edition of Education Week as Appellate Court Upholds Moment-of-Silence Law