A federal appeals court ruled that a Virginia law implementing a mandatory minute of silence in public schools is constitutional. A panel from the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 opinion in the case Brown v. Gilmore, rejecting a constitutional challenge to the Commonwealths "minute of silence" law.
The Virginia law was passed in the General Assembly last year and was in place for the 2000-2001 school year. The legislation mandated that public schools must begin the school day with a minute that allowed students to meditate, pray or engage in any other silent activity.
The ACLU challenged the law by filing a lawsuit on behalf of a handful of students. The lawsuit argued that the minute of silence was an attempt to encourage students to pray and therefore violated the First Amendment.
The appeals panel disagreed. "By providing this moment of silence, the state makes no endorsement of religion," Judge Paul V. Niemeyer ruled in the majority opinion. "Recognizing that the Religion Clauses of the Constitution are intended to protect religious liberty, Virginias minute of silence is no more than a modest step in that direction."
At this time, the ACLU is able to request a hearing of the full appeals court or appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Link to Opinion in Brown v. Gilmore from Findlaw.com
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