- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009



The silliness over the supposed blurring of the line between church and state reached its zenith — or should we say nadir — with the ruling of a federal judge in Chicago last week that an Illinois law requiring a moment of silence in public schools across Illinois is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman stated, “The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion.” Nonsense. First of all, the law allows students to reflect on the day’s activities rather than silently pray, if they choose. Second, who in the world knows what is going on in the mind of any student? If thought control could focus children on anything at all, teachers and parents would be ecstatic.

The entire statute states: “In each public school classroom the teacher in charge shall observe a brief period of silence with the participation of all the pupils therein assembled at the opening of every school day. This period shall not be conducted as a religious exercise but shall be an opportunity for silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day.” Where is the forcing of students to do anything? There’s no call to Jesus, Allah, Buddha, witches, or Mary may reflect on her boyfriend, Harry on the upcoming game, and in some cases it may go downhill from there.

Fortunately, not all federal judges are as befuddled as Judge Gettleman. Last year another U.S. District judge, Barbara Lynn, threw out a challenge to a 2003 Texas law that allows children to “reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities” for one minute at the start of each school day. She noted that “the primary effect of the statute is to institute a moment of silence, not to advance or inhibit religion.” Exactly.

Unfortunately, some federal judges wander into psychoanalysis of legislation when, as the master himself, Sigmund Freud, said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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