- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2000

Once again the school prayer debate rages on, this time with a variation on the familiar argument: Instead of approving a moment of prayer for public schools, the Virginia legislature has now passed a "moment of silence" law. Under the legislation, which Gov. James S. Gilmore III plans to sign soon, each public school would set aside one minute each day for quiet meditation.

Despite the temperate, reasonable tone of the legislation, the ACLU is still putting up its ritual complaint about a religious intrusion in government-operated schools, and the matter appears to be headed to a federal courtroom. Perhaps the ACLU should take its own moment of silence and reconsider.

On the face of it, this law is perfectly constitutional. So is its substance. "Silence" implies no influence of religion whatsoever. And we all could use some in our day. Children could probably use more than just one minute of peace in homeroom to rub two thoughts (or, yes, prayers) together. Ideally they would find more of it at home, with the television turned off by responsible parents. It takes a very strange mind to find anything wrong with meditation and it would certainly not interfere with the relationship between church and state a chimera raised by the opponents of religion any time any kind of spirituality in public schools is detected.

It is regrettable that lawmakers had to devote so much time and attention to approving and perhaps defending in court so mild and largely symbolic a measure. Ultimately, it may mean more to the lawmakers who debated the issue than the students, teachers and administrators who abide by it. Perhaps the goal here should not be to reduce the moments of silence in schools, but to reduce the government's role in managing them.

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