(formerly Sherman v. Township High School District 214)
We were amicus in a case filed by the Sherman family of Buffalo Grove against their local public high school and the Illinois Superintendent of Education, challenging a recently-amended Illinois state statute mandating a moment of silence as “an opportunity for silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day” before each school day begins.
The Illinois legislature, in adopting the provision, compared the public school “moment of silence” to legislative prayer, indicating a legislative intent that the new law to promote public school prayer. Our amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment argued that the law was unconstitutional because its principal purpose was religious, because the law had the effect of encouraging students to pray, and because it favors religions that engage in silent prayer over religions with other forms of prayer. In January 2009, the district court struck down the law. The Superintendent of Education appealed. In December 2009 we filed our amicus brief in the appellate court arguing in support of the district court ruling. In February 2010, we presented an oral argument as amicus. On October 15, 2010, a panel the court of appeals voted 2-1 to reverse the lower court, holding that the moment of silence is constitutional because it allows any kind of “silent reflection,” not just prayer. On December 22, 2015, the full court of appeals denied the plaintiffs’ and our request to rehear the case.