The people have spoken in the great state of Illinois, and the law that required the state's school students to pray or reflect for a moment every day seems to be on the way out. After passing twice through the state's legislature (the second time by a supermajority due to the governor's veto), the law that seemed like a good idea at the time looks like a goner. The Chicago Tribune writes that there are two reasons for the law's pending doom: the mandate was not popular among teachers and school administrators, and an "activist" had sued a township school district.
This activists and his daughter were previously portrayed by the paper as somewhat opportunistic litigants. It seems that the father-daughter team were trying to widen the lawsuit to bring in the entire state's school districts, which is a scary thought from the school's perspective. Suddenly defending against this lawsuit didn't seem like such a good idea financially and while the state's Senate has yet to vote on the reversal legislation, the House passed it Tuesday by a whopping 72-31.
Democracy at work, right?
Cross, for instance, switched his position because he decided it was better to have a "voluntary" moment of silence, spokesman David Dring said.
Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Sterling), who voted previously for the moment-of-silence law, changed his mind after hearing from many teachers and superintendents who are unhappy with the law. Mitchell said he didn't think Fritchey's bill would interfere with students who want to pray during school hours.
"Most good teachers have at least a couple of minutes of silence already just to establish order," Mitchell said. "And you and I both know that as long as we have tests in school, we'll have school prayer. I know I prayed a lot for that reason."
"I was never passionate about it," said Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), who also changed his stance. "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?"
In fact, the law does not contain any penalties for noncompliance.
The fascinating aspect of this story is how non-partisan this legislation seems to be. If there is a red state/blue state battle going on in the background, the story does not hint at it. See the quotes from the Democrat who wants the legislation requiring the moment of silence for reflection and prayer to stay:
Sen. Kim Lightford (D-Maywood), who championed the required moment, said she would vigorously oppose Fritchey's proposal, saying school officials in her district have praised the law because children have a chance to gather their thoughts or pray.
'No one's giving them a Bible, no one's asking them to quote Scripture," Lightford said. "No one's coming over the loud system saying, "Bow your heads in prayer," " as lawmakers do at the beginning of each legislative day.
What a great way to end a pretty good story on this school prayer battle. The fact that lawmakers pray everyday while on official business passing laws removing moment of silence requirements in schools is a reminder that the line dividing church and state is hardly fixed and anything but consistent.