Appeals Court Upholds Ill. ‘Moment of Silence’ Law

An Illinois statute that requires every public school classroom to open with an opportunity for “silent prayer or for silent reflection” is constitutional, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sherman v. Koch upheld the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act.

The law was enacted in October 2008 after the Illinois legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Pat Quinn, who cited concerns over the separation of church and state.

Rob Sherman, a parent of a high school student in Arlington Heights, filed a lawsuit, and a federal district court struck down the Act for being unconstitutionally vague.

The appeals court overturned that decision. In a majority opinion written by Judge Daniel Manion, the court said the legislature had a secular purpose in passing the Act and declared it constitutional.

Judge Ann Clair Williams dissented.

“Let’s call a spade a spade – statutes like these are about prayer in schools,” Williams wrote. “The Act makes what I believe to be an unnecessary reference to prayer, signaling a predominantly religious purpose to the statute. And by enumerating prayer as one of the only two specific permissible activities, the Act conveys a message that Illinois students should engage in prayer during the prescribed period as opposed to a host of other silent options.”