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Moment of Silence

David Wallace Croft

2009 Mar 28 Sat

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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 constitutional.


2006 2007 Corrections
  • 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.
2008 2009 February 2009 March

Alabama, 1985

In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Wallace v. Jaffree that a similar law in Alabama was unconstitutional.

Texas, 2003

In 2003, the Texas education code was amended to explicitly include prayer as a purpose of the mandatory moment of silence.

Illinois, 2009

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.

Video Archives

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 violating the Establishment Clause by establishing the type of religious expression which that the legislature deems permissible, which is silent prayer or meditation." 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 defeated?"

Debate Transcripts

Court Case


Wasted Minutes

Four million students in Texas start their school day with a minute of silence. 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.


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© 2009 David Wallace Croft
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