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Federal court sides with Virginia on moment of silence in schools

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (BP)–A Virginia federal court on Oct. 30 upheld a law requiring the state’s 1 million public school students to observe a daily “moment of silence” at the start of the school day, the Internet news site CNSNews.com reported.

Rejecting arguments that the law blurred constitutional lines separating church and state, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton said Virginia legislators stopped short of mandating that students pray during the moment of silence.

“Students may think as they wish, and this thinking can be purely religious in nature or purely secular in nature. All that is required is that they sit silently. Nothing and no one is favored under the act,” Hilton said in a ruling released by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in the city of Alexandria.

In the wake of a seeming rise in violence in public schools across the country and a breakdown in school discipline, Virginia lawmakers this year required that schools set aside a moment at the start of the school day for silent reflection, according to various wire service reports.

The new law, which took effect July 1, amended a 24-year old state statute allowing schools to voluntarily hold a moment of silence at the start of the day to allow students to “meditate, pray, or engage in any other silent activity.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing nine public school students, had sought to block enforcement of the new law on the grounds that it promoted religious practices in the schools and was unconstitutional.

The ACLU, which in September failed to obtain an injunction against the legislation, plans to appeal Monday’s ruling by the state federal court, according to media reports.
Melvin is the evening editor at CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Bob Melvin