October online edition

Court approves peaceful minute

Ramesh C. Reddy
Pittsburgh Standard

Of all the laws in the nation, I was excited to find out that last year, a new law was passed in Virginia requiring their public school students to open the day with a minute of silence.

            It is exciting to know that the minute of silence can be devoted to meditation, prayer, personal reflection, or any other silent activity.

Can students be forced to remain silent for a minute before their classes begin? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does not think so! They feel it is totally unconstitutional to allow that law to remain in the books because it is an attempt to reintroduce prayer in public schools.

            Couple of decades ago you used to be able to pray in public schools until the U.S. Supreme Ct. banned school prayer in a landmark 1962 case called Engel vs. Vitale.

It was a simple but profound prayer with the words, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers, and our nation."

              Yet, the court banned that prayer and any other prayer to be spoken or uttered in public schools throughout the nation. Since then there has not been prayer in public schools.

Now with the Virginia law, the state ACLU feels prayer could come back slowly so they filed a lawsuit on behalf of several students and their parents.

How could they do that? What is wrong with having a moment of silence in class? The students can do a lot with silence. We live in a world that is bombarded with noises so we all need a break. Silence can give us the time to be introspective of our lives even if it is just a minute. I do not see anything wrong with it.

According to the ‘Instructions in the Divine Life of the Soul’ from the French of Fenelon and Madame Guyon, “You must endeavor to be as silent as the proprieties of human intercourse will permit. This grace cherishes the presence of God, saves us many proud and rude expressions, and suppresses a great multitude of idle words and dangerous judgments of our neighbor.”

Even if you don’t believe in God, a certain amount of silence can be a benefit than a detriment in society. There should be no necessity for the state ACLU to be against a minute of silence even if they feel people could be praying during that time. Frankly, that is none of their business what students do in that one minute as long as they are not harming anyone. It is so easy to bring separation of church and state into a case but not all cases deal with separation of church and state.

I am glad the courts did not see it that way. Just this past month before the public schools were to go back in session, a divided federal appeals court rejected their argument that a minute of silence is unconstitutional by declaring it constitutional.

  In a 2-1 decision, it was thrilling for me to find out that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Virginia State legislature that passed the law to allow a minute of silence to continue.

For those of you that are against a minute of silence, I want you to know that this minute of silence is not religiously coercive since the state cannot impose any requirements during that time.

I hope the students of the Virginia public schools are benefiting from this minute of silence that is enforced before the start of the day. Personally, I would prefer having a voluntary prayer time in schools.

Since the removal of prayer in schools, research shows that a lot of negative effects have taken place.  According to Specialty Research Associates, under the direction of David Barton, America has gone on a moral decline.

Using 100 pages of graphs and statistical analysis from his report entitled America: To Pray or Not to Pray, Barton uses multiple graphs and statistical analysis to prove that crime, venereal disease, premarital sex, illiteracy, suicide, drug use, public corruption, and other social ills have dramatically increased. (http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0124_When_America_stopped.html)

If we cannot go back to voluntary prayer in schools, let us stick with the mandatory minute of silence law for Virginia public school. Hopefully, other state school districts will follow with their own mandatory minute of silence law that the courts will uphold.

I am excited that the Commonwealth of Virginia’s state Attorney General Randolph Beales is willing to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if the ACLU appeals their decision there.

In closing, why not practice your own minute of silence before each day begins!

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