Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Ladies and Gentlemen, A Moment of Silence for… A Moment of Silence

Yes. It is true. The Moment of Silence in Public Schools in Illinois is unconstitutional. Let’s take a moment of silence to remember the moment of silence.

A total of 18 states have similar statutes in their legislation giving students a moment of silence or prayer during school time.

In 1969 the Illinois legislature passed the following act:

Illinois Complied Statutes, Chapter 105 Act 20, ยง 1. In each public school classroom the teacher in charge shall 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.

Today, a federal judge ruled that this act is in violation of the constitutional line which separates church and state.

The suit was filed by “outspoken atheist” Rob Sherman. His claim is that the teachers in the younger grades were teaching the students to pray. In my opinion the teachers were in violation of a very good statute. The statute is very clear about its intentions. Give students a moment to reflect on their day and some may use this for prayer and some may choose not to pray.

I think we all need a moment to reflect and meditate on our day. In fact psychologists claim that meditation makes you calmer and happier. Jewish prayer is supposed to be part prayer and part meditation. Meaning that we use prayer as a time to focus and center in addition to thanking and recognizing God.

If the statute is being followed it is clearly beneficial. I wonder why the plaintiff did not attempt to require strict adherence to this great statute and instead decided to lash out against the idea completely and have the statute removed? Wouldn’t that be better? If the teachers followed the statute it would okay – right?

Or maybe the “outspoken atheist” does not want anybody to meditate and reflect? Maybe that is too dangerous? Maybe if you meditate or reflect you are one step closer to prayer, which is one step closer to belief in God (“God forbid”)?

Next time there is a moment of silence at a concert, ball game or at the White House I expect the “outspoken atheist” to protest.

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January 2009

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