Supreme Court Gives Blessing to `Moment of Silence' Laws / but Upholds School Prayer Ban

THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 5, 1985 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court Gives Blessing to `Moment of Silence' Laws / but Upholds School Prayer Ban


WASHINGTON (UPI) - The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to lift its 23-year ban on state-sponsored prayer in public schools, but gave its blessing to state laws calling for a simple ""moment of silence'' when students may pray quietly.

In the first high court test of such laws, the justices, on a 6-3 vote, upheld a lower court ruling that an Alabama law mandating a moment of silence for meditiation or voluntary prayer is unconstitutional.

The high court, however, made an important distinction between a simple moment of silence and the Alabama law, which was challenged by a man who objected to his children's being exposed to prayer at school.

""The legislative intent (of Alabama's law) to return prayer to the public schools is, of course, quite different from merely protecting every student's right to engage in voluntary prayer during an appropriate moment of silence during the school day,'' Justice John Paul Stevens said for the court.

A student's right to pray silently if he wishes is ""already protected,'' Stevens said, but the unconstitutional Alabama law ""was enacted to convey a message of state endorsement and promotion of prayer.''

In a concurring opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said, ""The moment of silence statutes of many states should satisfy the ... standard we have applied.

""The court holds only that Alabama has intentionally crossed the line between creating a quiet moment during which those so inclined may pray, and affirmatively endorsing the particular religious practice of prayer.''

About half the states have laws calling for a moment of silence for prayer, meditation or reflection, but how Tuesday's ruling affects them depends on how each is worded.

Both sides in the dispute - a top church-state controversy before the court this term - found something to cheer about in the ruling.

Rex Lee, former U.S. solicitor general whose office argued in support of the law for the Reagan administration, said the decision ""has something in it for everyone.''

Based on the ruling, Lee said, states can ""conclude that a moment of silence, which school children can devote to meditation, prayer or nothing at all, is wise within the proper sphere of choice.''

Forest Montgomery, lawyer for the National Association of Evangelicals, said the court had ""no maneuvering room'' because the record showed the Alabama legislature was trying to return prayer to public school.

""We asked the court to uphold the principle that "moment of silence' is permissible,'' Montgomery said. ""As we see it, it is a victory.''

Charles Sims of the American Civil Liberties Union also saw the decision as a victory and an ""extremely important reaffirmation of the path the court's been on in church-state matters for the pastcouple generations.''

In his opinion, Stevens said the Alabama law was designed to promote religion, noting a 1978 version referred only to a moment of silence for ""meditation,'' while the amended version before the court added the words, ""or voluntary prayer.''

""The addition of "or voluntary prayer' indicates that the state intended to characterize prayer as a favored practice,'' he said. ""Such an endorsement is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Supreme Court Gives Blessing to `Moment of Silence' Laws / but Upholds School Prayer Ban
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.