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August 22, 2002

Governor Signs Bill to Amend Silent Reflection Act

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today signed House Bill 4117, amending the current Silent Reflection Act in an effort to clarify students' right to prayer. Students will now have the opportunity to observe voluntary, non-disruptive prayers that are not affiliated with the school or any of its employees.

"We felt it was necessary to clarify the rights of students to silent prayer in the classroom," Governor Ryan said. "Students have the right to reflect silently at any time, not just at the beginning of the school day when the teacher and the entire class are involved.”

The bill also changes the title of the Act to the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act.

Under current law, teachers in public school classrooms are allowed to observe a brief period of silence with the participation of students for an opportunity for non-disruptive prayer or reflection on the anticipated activities of the day.

House Bill 4117 provides that students may voluntarily engage in individually-initiated, non-disruptive prayer that is not sponsored, promoted or endorsed in any manner by the school or any school employee. This legislation provides that the allowance of prayer be consistent with the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions.

Student-initiated prayer is allowed, in that the right to the free exercise of religion is guaranteed within the public schools. Each student also has the freedom not to participate in any sort of religious observation on school grounds.

The legislation was sponsored in the House by Rep. Jonathan Wright (R-Hartsburg) and in the Senate by Sen. Brad Burzynski (R-Sycamore).


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