A Moment Of Silence



In 1962 the Supreme Court decided that public schools did not have the power to

authorize school prayer. This decision made public schools in the U.S. more atheistic than many
European nations. For example, crosses still hang on the classroom walls in Poland, and the

Ten Commandments are displayed in Hungary. There are prayers held at the beginning of

legislative and judicial sessions and every President has mentioned a divine power in his

inaugural speech. In keeping with a spirit of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment,
there is no reason why students should not be allowed to have a moment of silence during the

school day when they can pray or do as they choose.

The case Engel v. Vitale in 1962 decided that school prayer is unconstitutional. With

this case, it was pointed out that the students were to "voluntarily" recite the following prayer:

"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us,
our parents, our teachers, and our country." The court ruled that this rule was unconstitutional

according to the First Amendment's "establishment clause," which states "Congress shall make

no law respecting an establishment of religion." In response to the Engel v. Vitale case some

schools adopted a "moment of silence."

In 1963, another case was brought before the court dealing with school prayer,

Abington School District v. Schempp. The Schempp family challenged a law in Pennsylvania

requiring the students to say ten verses of the Bible before school. These readings from the Bible
were declared unconstitutional. Members of the board felt reading the Bible would give the

children more moral values. The Schempp family strongly disagreed. Members of Congress




attempted to find a compromise. From this effort came the adoption of the moment of silence,

which is guaranteed by the First Amendment's "Free Exercise" clause.

Six states now permit silent moments -- Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi,

Tennessee, and Alabama. Silent prayer was ruled constitutional in 1985 as long as it had no

religious intent or purpose.

The First Amendment says that we have the freedom of religion. Prayer has been

banned in schools for thirty-three years. The moment of silence has been ruled constitutional,

however, every student fills a moment of silence in a different way: through song, a prayer, or a

memory.