An Answer to Our Prayers
The mandate invited criticism across the spectrum, from school boards, to administrators, to teachers, even the students themselves. One lawsuit threatened to topple the law on constitutional grounds, though this effort apparently failed as of Monday. The bill moves now to the Senate, but prospects of success are dimmer here as Sen. Kimberly Lightford, an original sponsor of the law, has assumed a similar position on the reversal bill, a sign she may use parliamentary tactics to ensure its death upon arrival. Her recent defense of the Silent Prayer and Student Reflection Act underlines this Machiavellian tendency: "No one's giving them a Bible, no one's asking them to quote Scripture. No one's coming over the loud system saying, 'Bow your heads in prayer,' as lawmakers do at the beginning of each legislative day."
As Charles Haynes wrote last October, the legislation is probably not in violation of the religious liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment, but this does not make it a sound policy. Blagojevich thought it violated the First Amendment and used it as the rationale for his initial veto, but policymakers are arguably coming to the latter conclusion. Rep. Dan Burke captured these sentiments best in explaining away his flip-flop: "I was never passionate about it. If you could enforce it, that would be one thing... But what's the point of it? How in the world would you ever get compliance?"
So this circular contest continues, and those impacted by the law must be wondering, "Don't these folks in Springfield have something better to do than hold a debate over what to do at the start of the school day?"
For a complete narrative, from beginning to end, on the evolution of this legal battle, please visit the following former posts:
Is Silence a Lemon?
Silence in the Courtroom.
Courting Our Annual Culture War.
Finally, moving to an entirely different topic, click here to listen to our latest podcast on the 2008 presidential election as we weigh in on the results of the March 4 "Critical Tuesday" contests.