School Prayer the Pledge of Allegiance, and a 'Minute of Silence'
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Permissible "Minute of Silence"
During the 1980s, school prayer advocates were in search of new approaches that might prove constitutional. The so-called moment of silence has proven the most successful strategy, despite an early setback in which Alabama's requirement that school children be required to observe a moment of silence each day was held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Wallace v. Jaffrey (1985).
However, states subsequently crafted laws that did survive constitutional review. One example is Virginia's minute of silence law, which requires children to begin the school day with a minute to "meditate, pray or engage in silent activity." In July 2001, a panel of the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the law, noting that it "introduced at most a minor and nonintrusive accommodation of religion" and, because it allowed any type of silent reflection, served both religious and secular interests. The U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case, thus upholding Virginia's law. Legal observers predicted the law's success would lead to more such legislation in other states; as many as 18 states already permit moments of silence under law.
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