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US Florida Schools Could Have Required 'Moment of Silence' Every Day Under New Bill

01:45  23 april  2021
01:45  23 april  2021 Source:   newsweek.com

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Public schools in Florida could soon be required to hold a daily "moment of silence" after the state legislature passed a bill that opponents believe is an attempt to subvert the U.S. Constitution's ban on school prayer.

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Florida's state Senate passed the bill by a vote of 36-2 on Thursday, with the proposal having previously passed in the state House by a 94-24 vote. It will now be sent to the desk of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who could make it law with the stroke of a pen. The law in Florida currently allows schools to hold neutral moments of silence but does not require them to do so.

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The new law would require a moment of silence—of between one and two minutes—each day, effective July 1. It would also require teachers to "encourage parents or guardians to discuss the moment of silence with their children and to make suggestions as to the best use of this time." The text of the bill describes the law as an opportunity for school children to briefly escape "today's hectic society."

"The Legislature finds that in today's hectic society too few persons are able to experience even a moment of quiet reflection before plunging headlong into the activities of daily life," the bill states. "Young persons are particularly affected by the absence of an opportunity for a moment of quiet reflection."

"The Legislature finds that our youth, and society as a whole, would be well served if students in the public schools were afforded a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day," it continues.

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Opponents of the measure suggested that the bill was not really intended to promote quiet reflection among school children and instead was an attempt to skirt prohibitions on school prayer.

"It would be a good thing if we could all take a moment of silence every day and reflect and meditate a little bit on things that are important to us," said Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, according to The Miami Herald. "However, the framers of our Constitution were very careful to separate church and state."

The Supreme Court has ruled multiple times, in cases dating back to 1962, that the Constitution's First Amendment bans mandatory school prayer. A 1985 case ruled that laws requiring moments of silence were also unconstitutional if they were only intended to promote prayer, although truly neutral moments of silence could be permitted.

Several states have since introduced moments of silence that have withstood court challenges by being deemed neutral activities. The Florida law prohibits teachers from making "suggestions as to the nature of any reflection that a student may engage in during the moment of silence" and students from interfering with "other students' participation."

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Newsweek reached out to the office of DeSantis for comment.

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This is interesting!