Closer to Home . . . Is Mandatory Prayer Still on the Agenda After Governor's Veto?
"Moment of Silence" Act.
By a vote of 58-1, the Illinois Senate passed SB1463 amending the "Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act" [105/ILCS/1] to require rather than permit a moment of silence at the start of the school day.
SB 1463 was sent to the House and passed by a vote of 86 - 26 with six representatives not voting. It was then sent to the Governor's office on June 29th, where it was rejected on August 28th.
Among those voting "No" was Julie Hamos (D-18th). Her dstrict covers the North Shore from Rogers Park to the southeastern corner of Glencoe and includes much of Evanston, eastern Wilmette, Kenilworth and most of Winnetka. In a letter to a constituent, explaining her vote, Representative Hamos said,
To read Representative Hamos letter, responsing to the NSCAU suggested letter, CLICK HERE.
"While I cherish our Constitutional right to religious freedom, I am also mindful that our Constitution requires neutrality between church and state that neither advances nor inhibits religion. . . because I do not believe this legislation follows the spirit of the Constitutional separation of church and state, it did not get my support in the General Assembly."
Americans United has long opposed "Moment of Silence" legislation. Here's the AU Position.
August 28, 2007. Governor rejects requiring moment of silence in schools
Gov. Rod Blagojevich rejected a proposal to force public school students to reflect quietly at the beginning of each day.
In a veto message to the General Assembly, the Democrat said current state law allows teachers to ask students to take a moment for silent reflection before class. Requiring it could violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on state-sponsored religion, he said.
"I believe in the power of prayer," Blagojevich wrote. "I also believe that our founding fathers wisely recognized the personal nature of faith and prayer, and that is why the separation of church and state is a centerpiece of our Constitution, our democracy and our freedoms."
The measure's House sponsor, state Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, had argued it was not a religious exercise, but a chance for pupils to settle down and reflect on the coming day.
Originated by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, the bill, S.B. 1463, passed the Senate 58-1 and the House, 86-26 — both majorities large enough to override a gubernatorial veto.
But during debate on the House floor, the proposal came under sharp criticism. Opponents said it could, at best, take time away from learning and, at worst, coerce religious activity.
"I am working with my wife to raise our children to respect prayer and to pray because they want to pray — not because they are required to," Blagojevich said.
The American Civil Liberties Union took no position on the legislation. A spokesman pointed out that the Constitution does not bar voluntary prayer, and at least 10,000 student groups nationwide currently express their faith in public schools.
Members of the North Shore Chapter of Ameicans United opposed the legislation and wrote letters to legislators and met with members of the General Assembly and the Governor's office to protest its passage and urge the veto.
It is unknown at this point whether sponsors of the legislation will attempt to override the Governor's veto. Members and those who support the Governor's position are urged to write to their Senators and Representatives to oppose any attempt to override the veto.
Here is a sample letter in MSWord that you can modify for your own use.
To find your State Senator or Represenative: CLICK HERE.
A letter to the editor is one of the most effective ways to influence your elected officials including Members of Congress. Elected officials pay attention to the media in their districts. If your letter gets published, you can double its effectiveness by sending them a copy along with a note about how important the issue is to you…
You may want to research the basic talking points and facts on the issues you plan to write about. Sometimes you can anticipate letter-worthy news stories such as when the board of education will be reviewing the science curriculum. You can pre-write parts of a letter dealing with that topic. You are welcome (even encouraged) to contact Americans United for help with your talking points.
When you see a story or letter that you would like to comment on, write soon! Submitting your letter on the same or next day is usually best for print editions of daily newspapers. Online publications may require even greater speed.
- Know the rules about letters to the editor for the publication you’re writing to. The main things that newspapers usually have requirements for are:
- Contact information (so they can verify that you wrote the letter)
- Exclusivity (you can’t send an identical letter to other papers)
- Maximum length
- Reference to a recently published article
- If you have a direct connection with the issue, be sure to say so!
- There is no perfect structure that will guarantee that your letter will be published, but the basic formula for a letter to the editor is to say what you’re commenting on, point out what’s wrong, follow with your alternative view and/or analysis, and reiterate your point in a short conclusion.
- Though you may have a lot to say, KEEP IT BRIEF! The paper may shorten your letter to suit its format for that day. The more it has to cut, the less control you have of what gets printed.
- Your computer has a spelling and grammar check function. Don’t forget to use them.
- Double check that you have adhered to all the guidelines before submitting your letter. If you don’t follow the paper’s requirements, your letter won’t be published.
- If possible, send your letter via e-mail, not postal mail. Most newspaper Web sites have a special section for submitting letters via e-mail. Read the policy and follow the newspaper’s instructions to submit your letter.