Silent No More
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office defended the bill, may appeal to a higher authority, namely the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Based on my own legal analysis and that of First Amendment Center senior scholar Charles Haynes, there stands a fair chance of Gettleman's decision being overturned, as similar laws have withstood judicial scrutiny.
An interesting footnote in the case is the fact that Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed the legislation, claiming it was unconstitutional. Both the Illinois House and Senate proceeded to take matters into their own hands, and overrode the since criminally-charged governor.
As I reported last spring, the House actually passed legislation to return school prayer to its previous state in Illinois public school classrooms, making the decision voluntary by school district rather than a statewide mandate. It failed to emerge out of committee in the Senate.
We present this issue at the Freedom Museum within an exhibit called "Close to Home." In allowing visitors to weigh in on the controversy, we have elicited strong, salient opinions on both sides of the issue. This case, and our experience in framing it within our museum, cement the fact that the very meaning of the First Amendment remains a contested concept worthy of public discourse, and I fully expect that those who wish to enable prayer and reflection in statewide public schools have only been momentarily silenced.
We await the next chapter in this close to home controversy.