ADF brief defends ‘period of silence’ in Illinois schoolsBrief filed by ADF attorneys and allied attorneys asks court to dismiss lawsuit, declare law constitutional
Monday, October 27, 2008
CHICAGO — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys and allied attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief in federal court Thursday in defense of an Illinois law allowing a "period of silence" for students attending the state’s public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the atheist who filed the suit, which seeks to have the law declared unconstitutional.
"A period of silence is not unconstitutional just because an atheist fears a student might use it to pray," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. "There is clearly no constitutional violation here, and we hope that the court will see through the ACLU’s attempt to use this case to further its secularist agenda. The emotional response of one offended atheist does not amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause."
Since 1969, the state of Illinois has had a law that allows public school students a "period of silence" to engage in voluntary prayer or reflection. In October 2007, an atheist whose teenage child is enrolled at Buffalo Grove High School sued the school district in federal court over its implementation of the law.
On Dec. 17, the court allowed attorneys with ADF and the Chicago firm of Mauck & Baker to participate in defending the law through briefing and oral argument. On March 28, the court issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which effectively suspends it while the case moves forward.
"Clearly, a moment of silence cannot be interpreted as an establishment of religion," said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "No one is forced to pray against their will. Students have a brief period of time to reflect on whatever they choose, whether through prayer, silent reflection, or some other silent method."
The friend-of-the-court brief was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Sherman v. Township High School District 214.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. ADF President Alan Sears is co-author with Craig Osten of the book The ACLU vs. America.