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Should a “moment of silence” be legal in
In 1962 the Supreme Court decided that public
schools did not have the power to authorize school
prayer. This decision made public school in
the U.S. more atheistic than many European
nations. For example, crosses still hang
on the classroom walls in Poland, and the Ten
Commandments are displayed in Hungary. There are
prayers held at the beginning of legislative
and judicial sessions and every President has
mentioned a divine power in his inaugural
speech. In keeping with a spirit of religious
freedom as stated in the First Amendment, there
is no reason why students should not be allowed
to have a moment of silence during the school day when
they can pray or do as they choose.
The case Engel v. Vitale in 1962 decided that
school prayer is unconstitutional. With this case,
it was pointed out that the students were to
“voluntarily” recite the following prayer:
“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence
upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our
parents, our teachers, and our country.”
The court ruled that this rule was unconstitutional
according to the First Amendment’s “establishment
clause,” which states “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion.” In response to
the Engel v.Vitale case some schools adopted a
“moment of silence.”
In 1963, another case was brought before the court
dealing with school prayer, Abington School
District v. Schempp. The Schempp family challenged
a law in Pennsylvania requiring the students to say
ten verses of the Bible before school. These readings
from the Bible were declared unconstitutional.
Members of the board felt reading the Bible would
give the children more moral values. The Schempp
family strongly disagreed. Members of Congress
attempted to find a compromise. From this effort came the
adoption of the moment of silence, which is guaranteed
by the First Amendment’s “Free Exercise” clause.
Six states now permit silent moments — Georgia,
Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, and
Alabama. Silent prayer was ruled constitutional
in 1985 as long as it had no religious intent or
purpose. (Newsweek, October 3, 1994)
Prayer has been banned in schools for thirty-three
years. The moment of silence has been ruled
constitutional, however. Every student fills a
moment of silence in a different way: through
song, a prayer, or a memory.
Newsweek, October 3, 1994, vol. 124.
U.S. News and World Report, December 5, 1995
Vol. 117, No. 22, pg. 8-9.
The Case of Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 1962,
Abington School District v. Schempp 374 U.S. 203;
83 S. Ct. 1560; 10 L. Ed. 2d 844 1963, pg. 529-530.
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