By Ellyn Fortino, Communications Intern

The ACLU of Illinois participated in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Wednesday in Sherman v. Township High School District 214 challenging an 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 ACLU of Illinois argued the law is unconstitutional, "because its principle purpose was religious, because the law had the effect of encouraging students to pray and because it favors silent prayer over religions with other forms of prayer."

Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois, said in court the statute stigmatizes some religions, because not all students have their prayers accommodated within a brief moment of silence. He said some religious prayers are active, spoken, and/or lengthy.

Additionally, Schwartz said the clause, which states students may reflect on the anticipated activities of the day is archaic, because it is narrow, restrictive and ultimately pushes kids to pray.

The word "reflection" also is problematic, according to Schwartz. Will kindergarteners and children up to age eight understand the meaning of the word "reflect?" He said younger children will tend to pray opposed to the second option of reflecting. Schwartz said students in junior high school are more susceptible to peer-pressure, and if they see most of their peers praying, they will pray as well.

A decision by the court is expected in a few months.