- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

A moment of silence to be used for prayer, silent reflection, even napping is not tantamount to an official state religion. This is the essence of the Supreme Court's decision to let stand a lower-court ruling (Brown vs. Gilmore) that Virginia's moment-of-silence requirement is not in violation of the First Amendment.
Since last year, children in Virginia public schools have been permitted to begin their day with 60 seconds of quiet, during which time, they may "meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity." As the language of the law establishing the moment of silence takes great pains to spell out, students may "engage in other silent activity" that has nothing whatever to do with contemplation of God. Still, some saw theological indoctrination hiding under the desk, so to speak most notably the American Civil Liberties Union, which takes umbrage at the least mention of religion, faith or spirituality in any public setting as clear evidence of the imminence of a state church, as in England. The ACLU filed the predictable lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the moment-of-silence statute using a handful of students as their front men. The ACLU's argument was that by including the possibility that students might pray during the moment of silence, the state was, in effect, sponsoring religion and thus in violation of the First Amendment's prohibitions. This spectacularly specious notion was rejected at every level of the court system and the Supreme Court's decision this week was the coup de grace.
That some people imagine that a moment of silence sets some kind of malignant precedent that will lead, in time, to a Taliban-like entanglement of American government and public life with organized religion says more about their own bugaboos and political agenda than anything else. The First Amendment states simply that Congress the federal government "shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." In other words, the federal government is prohibited from creating a national church. The Virginia legislature is not Congress and it is not attempting to set up a Church of Virginia. The ACLU simply has an ax to grind with religion and religious sentiment as such whether it takes the form of a moment of silence or a nativity scene at Christmas irrespective of any actual attempt at creating an official state religion, which has never been anything more than a bogeyman trotted out by ACLU lawyers and their shills in the media. The Supreme Court slam-dunked that silly shibboleth. With any luck, the trend will continue.


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