Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

7th Circuit upholds Illinois ‘period of silence’ law

Posted by faithandthelaw on October 17, 2010

CHICAGO — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Friday upheld an Illinois law that allows public school students to engage in voluntary prayer and reflection as part of a moment of silence during the school day. The court’s decision reverses a federal district judge’s decision last year to strike down the law as unconstitutional in an atheist’s 2007 lawsuit against the Township High School District.

In October 2009, the Alliance Defense Fund and allied attorneys with the Chicago firm of Mauck & Baker filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 7th Circuit on behalf of the Illinois Family Institute in support of the law, the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, passed in 1969 and amended in 2007. The 7th Circuit heard oral argument in February.

“Just because a person is ‘offended’ that someone else might use a period of silence to pray doesn’t mean that the Constitution has been violated,” said Andy Norman, one of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “The court rightly determined that voluntary periods of silence cannot be interpreted as an establishment of religion. Such an accusation not only demonstrates hostility to our nation’s history and heritage, but also a profound misunderstanding of the First Amendment.”

“The legal attack upon this law was simply another attempt by secularists to eliminate any form of perceived religious expression from public life,” explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “The ‘period of silence’ statute does not favor one religion over another, nor does it endorse religion.”

In its opinion in Sherman v. Koch, the 7th Circuit concluded that the statute “does not advance or inhibit religion (or specific religions that practice momentary silent prayer), but rather mandates only a period of silence. There is also no state entanglement with religion.” The court also concluded that the law “is not unconstitutionally vague in all of its operations.”

The 7th Circuit joins other federal circuit courts that have upheld similar laws as constitutional.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

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