A 'Moment of Silence' in Schools



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.



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References



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, p. 118-119.



Abington School District v. Schempp 374 U.S. 203; 83 S. Ct. 1560; 10

L. Ed. 2d 844 1963, pg. 529-530.