Religion

Chicago Representatives Want Prayer Back In Classrooms

| by Karen Eisenberg
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Chicago Representatives Mary Flowers and LaShawn Ford, are sponsors of Bill HB0165, which seeks to amend the existing Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. HB0165 would allow religious-based meetings to take place in public school classrooms, according to NBC Chicago.  

HB0165 would permit students to voluntarily pray at any time during school hours on public school property.

According to the Huffington Post, the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act was passed in 2007. The Act requires students to take a moment of silence at the start of each school day.

The Act was determined unconstitutional in 2009 by District Judge Robert Gettleman, "The plain language of the statute... suggests and intent to force the introduction of the concept of prayer into the schools," Gettleman wrote in his decision.

The court of appeal overturned Gettleman’s decision finding, "Nothing in the text ... limits students' thoughts during the period of silence; the text mandates only one thing -- silence," Judge Daniel Manion wrote.

A similar bill was signed in 2014 by Gov. Pat McCrory. Senate Bill 370 provides students with the right to engage in prayer and religious activities in North Carolina public schools.

According to US News, Bill 370 allows students to “engage in prayer, participate in religious activities on school grounds, organize prayer groups with other students and express their beliefs in school assignments, given that these actions are all initiated by the students themselves and not by school staff, and that they do not interfere with school operations.”

Opponents of Bill 370 argue that these types of laws are just a ploy to sneak prayer back into the school day. Heather Weaver, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief says, “What these laws are aimed at are really injecting school prayer back into the school day.” "Lawmakers have been attempting to that for decades. This is the newest version of that. This is their new strategy.”

Sources: NBC Chicago, Huffington Post, US News