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Someone writes to us, gushing over the Virginia "Moment of Silence" law. He calls it "an excellent idea of the compromise we wish to promote. No one is forced to pray and certain students have the option of doing as they wish. Both sides are happy." Then he wonders why the ACLU would try to get the law removed.
I'm not up on the ACLU's objections to this one, but I know why I'd like to see it put back the way it was. First, there is only one specific type of Christian who wants these "Moment of Silence" laws to begin with. History shows us that this won't be enough: these Christians will soon want to have more, and then more and more. What started off as a compromise today will be a precedent tomorrow, held up as "proof" that this is how the Founders wanted it all along. The dishonesty of such Christians is matched only by their greed.
The classic examples of this group's utter unwillingness to appreciate our sneaking to them juicy morsels under the table are "under God" and "In God We Trust." While the McCarthy Era distracted us from more crucial matters, we got bullied into making this endorsement of God contrary to our Constitution, regretting it later, to be sure! Yesterday's compromise is today's demand. Every public resource we give triggers an itch: "You gave us this, so give us that, too."
The same lines used in the "under God" bill carried the "Moment of Silence" law. Who's to say that they'll stick with just a moment? Why assume it'll remain silent, for that matter? Bending the rules never once halted the continuous demand for more.
The important reason to keep schools from forcing our kids to stand together for a "Moment of Silence" is that it's a religious ritual. If government has no right to force adults to practice religious ritual, it would be outright nefarious for a government to direct the religious exercises of children!
The "Moment of Silence" is a ritual. The same act is performed at the same time each day. It's done without regard to why it's being done. No clear purpose is shown, just nondescript silence. The kids will not be excused simply for asking. (Watch what happens when any kid dares to state, "No, I won't do that!") Never is this ritual to be performed voluntarily, from the heart: its mandatory nature precludes spontaneity.
The "Moment of Silence" rite is religious. This is shown by the fact that only religious people want to force our children to do it. I don't need to know about religion or rite to see that only religious people want this law. They fought for it under the auspices of religious freedom -- their freedom to be religious at school. Thus, it is properly seen in only one light: that of a religious ritual.
Let me say this again: I do not need to understand its religious meaning to show its religious significance. Religious people demonstrated its religious connotation by their zeal to pass this law. No regular people want this ritual mandated by law.
If the "Moment of Silence" is no big deal, as our reader wants us to think, then what could be worth trouncing the dignity of other kids? Christ said praying in public is a mark of hypocrisy: why mock the kids who believe Jesus? This is more about being in control than about making anyone happy.
Copyright ©2001 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon