In Illinois, the State Congress passed a bill for students to be given a moment of silence each day at the start of school, even in public schools. Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed the measure. In an act that proves that some politicians are worthy people, the State Senate has voted to override the veto. This is great news. If the State House does the same, the bill will go into effect.
So, why do I support this? The critics say that this bill, “would take time away from learning and possibly coerce prayer.” I am a strong advocate of church and state separation. Just as I don’t think we should stifle free speech and intellectual freedom, I don’t think we should stifle free exercise of religion. I have no wish to push my religion on others, as I have no wish to have theirs pushed onto me. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the criticisms, shall we?
The first is that it will take time away from learning. I have trouble believing this is an actual argument. Taking a minute out of each day isn’t going to affect the learning process at all. This isn’t going to negatively affect anything. It might help though. If students feel that their wants and needs are being taken into consideration, it might make them more open to learning. Giving them a moment to gather their strength and thoughts to face the day might be a great way for them to get focused on their classes and learning. This might actually help students.
So, what about the second criticism, that it might lead to coerced prayer? This too falls well short of a good reason. I find it hard to believe that during a moment of silence that any student will be able to coerce another student into prayer. It’s just not realistic.
So, what’s good about this? Besides the already mentioned chance for students to clear their heads, this will actually promote religious diversity and religious tolerance. All students will have the chance to observe their own religion as they see fit. This will foster an environment where students learn about other students’ religious ideas in a non-threatening way. They will get to see that students of other religions are very much like they are. This promotes tolerance and diversity, which are good things. And, no one is being forced to pray, but everyone gets the same opportunity to do so if they see fit. It’s a win/win situation for all. I hope that the Illinois House has the good sense of their Senate and defeats the veto.