CBNNews.com - Public school students in Illinois will no longer be allowed to take a moment of silence at the start of classes, a judge has ruled.
This week, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman struck down the state's mandatory moment of silence law, calling it "a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion."
Since Oct. 2007, Illinois schools were required to offer "an opportunity for silent prayer or reflection" for faculty and students. The brief moment was usually taken daily, after the Pledge of Allegiance.
Gettlemen had put a temporary ban on the legislation last May, after 14-year-old Dawn Sherman and her atheist father, Rob Sherman, claimed the law was injecting religion into public schools.
"I don't go to school to talk to God. I'm in school to learn," Dawn Sherman said.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, assisted in the case when it was first filed in 2007.
"A moment of silence is not a government endorsement of religion just because someone might use the time for prayer," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman.
According to a recent poll, most in the country would agree. A 2008 study found that 89 percent of Americans support allowing a "moment of silence" for students during class time.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a sponsor of the law requiring the silent pause, said she hopes Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will appeal the decision.
"I strongly feel and I still believe that children should have a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day," she said.
A similar law in Texas allowing students to "reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activities" was also struck down last year.
At least 20 states in the U.S. allow schools to offer a moment of silence during class time.
Source: Chicago Trubune, Associated Press, LA Times, Alliance Defense Fund