THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY may not be able to figure out how to fund our schools, fix our roads or properly staff our prisons. But when it comes to forcing schoolchildren to shut their little yaps for a minute each morning, your state officials are on the job.
It appears likely that a daily "moment of silence" for public schoolchildren will soon become law in Illinois. On Wednesday, the Senate overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of the measure on a 42-9 vote. Given that the House passed the original bill 86-26, an affirmative override looks like a safe bet there as well. This bill was as unneeded as it was deceptive.
FIVE YEARS AGO, a bill amended the state's Silent Reflection Act, changing it to the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act and guaranteeing students the right to observe voluntary, nondisruptive prayer whenever they chose to during the school day.
The bill also allows for a moment of silence to begin the day if a teacher and his or her class choose to.
So, Illinois children can already reflect and pray in school any time they want. And a classroom can choose to observe a silent moment any day it wants.
But that's not enough for the legislature and those whose real motive is to slyly place forced prayer back into the public schools. For them a law is needed that will force teachers to enforce this "silent reflection." We think Blagojevich's veto message eloquently explained why this bill should not be a law.
"Prayer plays an important part in the lives of many people. It certainly does in mine. I believe in prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. 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," wrote Blagojevich. "As a parent, 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. For this reason, I hereby veto and return Senate Bill 1463."
MAYBE ONCE this vital piece of legislation is finally secured, the General Assembly can move on to pass the technical bill needed to allow school districts to collect the $400-per-pupil increase they were promised in the state budget. We're pretty sure they could use the money a lot more than another vapid, state mandate.