Moment of Silence
David Wallace Croft
2009 Mar 28 Sat
For updates, please add my
My wife Shannon
and I have been concerned for some time about violations of
church-state separation at the public elementary school where our children
attend. We have documented these incursions against our First Amendment
rights in this 19-page chronology.
On 2006 March 10th, our attorney
Dean Cook filed this petition
to have the mandatory moment of silence law in the Texas state education
code ruled unconstitutional. On 2008 January 2nd, a judge ruled that the
law was constitutional. On May 27th, we filed an
appeal. Americans United for Separation of Church
and State (AU) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed
an amicus brief supporting our appeal. Oral arguments were
held on 2009 February 3rd at the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit.
On 2009 March 16th, the Court of Appeals ruled that the law was
- I did not stop by the campus looking for violations.
- I did not complain about the teacher's shirt.
- The teacher's activity was discovered after our decision to file.
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
Wallace v. Jaffree that a similar
law in Alabama was unconstitutional.
In 2003, the Texas education code was amended to explicitly include prayer
as a purpose of the mandatory moment of silence.
A similar moment of silence law in Illinois was struck down as
unconstitutional in 2009.
Purpose: Religious or "Patriotic"?
The terms "traditional" or "patriotic" seem to be the new code words for
cloaking religious activity with an air of secular legality in our public
schools. I compare it to the attempt to slip creationism into the
curriculum by calling "intelligent design" a science.
The following links are to the video archives of the Texas State Senate and
House in RealPlayer format. When the legislators speak, it is clear that
the purpose of the bill is to introduce prayer into public schools.
2003 Feb 11: Senate Education Committee. SB 83. The bill is
introduced. The State
Senator starts by talking about the U.S. Supreme Court banning prayer in
school. He mistakenly states that a Virginia moment of silence
statute was approved recently as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme
Court. He is corrected and then changes his position to say that since
the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, they upheld the statute.
0:21:50: "For the purposes of legislative
intent, this is not a prayer bill." 0:22:08: "All I'm saying is I hope
that what we're doing here is not getting the school district between the
child and the parents on these extremely important matters."
0:29:00: "I want it to be a slam dunk when it gets there because
no question but that if we pass
this, it will be challenged in federal court. This will be going up to
the U.S. Supreme Court."
Witnesses speak for and against the bill.
2003 Mar 25: Starting 27 minutes (0:27:00) into the video.
Senate Education Committee. CSSB 83. The bill is moved from the section
of the state code entitled "Exercise of Constitutional Right to Pray" to
"School Day" and the pledges of allegiance are added.
0:30:20: "I've had
people say to me the moment of silence is one thing but when you add the
word pray it would cause a problem for the Supreme Court." Witnesses
speak for and against the bill. More on this bill 1 hour and 2 minutes
(1:02:00) into the video.
2003 Apr 09: Starting 2:13:30 into the video. Senate floor debate.
CSSB 83. 2:20:25: "Senator, what you're doing is mandating a back door
way of prayer in schools." 2:52:26: "On the other hand, we could be
bogged down by court challenges [...]".
2:58:55: "We got a lot wars going on because of religion. [...]
And what you're doing is trying to bring a backdoor way of bringing
prayer into our schools." 3:01:45: "Senator, while I agree that we can
pray in many places, our school districts, our public schools systems,
are supposed to be secular, and neutral. [...] But by you allowing to
leave the word prayer shows that your intent is to try to bring prayer
back into the school systems, and this is why I oppose your bill."
3:02:48: "Those of us that have seen discrimination, whether it be
prayer, faith, language, [...], now comes this bill on prayer."
3:05:22: "Look at history, a lot of the wars we fought since the start
of humanity are over religion, so please let's honor our principles of
freedom of religion in our country."
2003 May 06: Starting 2:20:25. House floor debate. SB 83.
2:23:00: "Put simply, silent speech is not free speech. We may
inadvertently be turning our teachers into prayer
police and subjecting them and our school districts to lawsuits for
the Establishment Clause by establishing the type of religious expression
which that the legislature deems permissible, which is silent prayer or
2:24:50: "When we were pushing this bill and going around the state
trying to get people to support prayer back in school, we found that a
number of undesirable things happened when we took prayer out of school."
2:36:40: "My concern is, do you not feel, that by allowing it to be an
option it will continue to be not observed in any form, whereas we will
take responsibility from a potential
lawsuit perhaps at the state level when a school board or administrator
says, well it is out of my hands the state has told me we have to, thus
do you not agree that it will be more potentially likely to be done
by people who desire now for it to be done if this amendment is
Four million students in Texas start their school day with a minute of
There are 180 days in the school year.
Each year, the equivalent of three hours of instruction time per student
are wasted on a government-mandated activity that has no secular purpose.
David Wallace Croft
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