Regularly during each work day, we gather in prayer and ask the Lord to give us guidance,” said Andy Norman.
Now some of you might think I’m quoting the wise words of a pastor or the dean of a Christian school, but Andy Norman is a senior member of Mauck & Baker, a law firm headquartered in Chicago. Norman and his associates at the firm have worked on some monumental cases in the attempt to protect religious freedom and fight against unjust and immoral laws — from attempting to overturn Roe v. Wade, to fighting to close Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in Aurora, to supporting pharmacists’ right of conscience not to stock the Plan B contraceptive which can act as an abortifacient.
Currently, Mauck & Baker is representing the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) as a friend of the court in a very important case here in Illinois. ADF has more than 1100 allied attorneys nationwide who fight in court for our religious liberties.
Last year, our state’s General Assembly amended a law titled the “Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act” (,u>SB 1463). The legislation now requires a public school teacher to call for a moment of silence before the start of each school day. In the past, the moment of silence was not mandatory, so if educators preferred not to observe the intent of the law, no sanctions would be levied against them. But SB 1463 has taken that judgment call away from teachers, and many believe the bill has reinstated some of the First Amendment rights regarding religion that have been systematically stripped away from Americans during the past 50 years.
Of course, in our modern society, no good deed goes unpunished. Unfortunately, however, good deeds are frequently met with ridiculous lawsuits in our litigious society and the moment of silence bill is no exception to the rule.
An atheist from Buffalo Grove decided to file a suit against the moment of silence legislation and, through the luck of the draw, he happened to find an activist judge who agreed with him. The atheist obtained an injunction against Buffalo Grove High School where his daughter attends as a sophomore, preventing observation of the moment of silence. Without going into the legalese, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled the case against the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act had merit because, in part, it was taking study time away from students — if they indeed took a moment to silently pray, contemplate the world’s events or think about what they would be wearing on tonight’s date. Even more ridiculous, the judge also wrote that if a student or students had to choose between being silent or saying a silent prayer, it was a violation of the First Amendment.
The case will be in front of Gettleman again on March 5th where he will decide if the fifteen year old plaintiff can represent every student in Illinois and if the Buffalo Grove School District can represent every school district in the state.
Many believe the object of the lawsuit is to levy a statewide ban on the implementation of the moment of silence legislation, but that ruling will not be made on March 5th. Without fail, the ACLU has decided to take a role in the litigation as a friend of the court on behalf of the Buffalo Grove student. Some question why the legislation flew threw both Houses of the Illinois General Assembly in the first place. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed the bill, but his action was roundly defeated in an override vote by a huge bi-partisan margin.
Political observers question why the ACLU is bucking strong forces in this case, including the NEA (National Education Association) and the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) when it comes to this issue. The teachers unions were mute when the moment of silence legislation was before the Illinois General Assembly and many believe it was because SB1463 was widely endorsed by the African-American community, an important voting bloc within the Democratic Party.
As to the hearing on March 5, 2008, Norman said “for a number of reasons which we are putting into a brief for the court, we believe it would be inappropriate for Dawn Sherman to represent all public school students in Illinois, and for School District 241 to represent all public school districts in the state. We will strongly urge the court to reject these efforts.”
Many believe the Illinois “Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act” is a landmark case. Some see it as the first step in a fight against the effort to completely remove expressions of faith from the public square. The case has received a great deal of attention throughout the nation and other states are considering similar bills.
Eventually, the battle over the moment of silence in Illinois public schools may make it to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and perhaps on to the United States Supreme Court. The ADF has been a constant defender of religious liberty in America and law firms like Mauck & Baker play a significant role in the fight for religious freedom and Constitutional rights guaranteed by the Founding Fathers.
The importance of this case cannot be underestimated. Even though common sense would indicate a moment of silence would make sense in these days of violence and turmoil in our public schools, there are those who are determined to advance an agenda which has nothing to do with the welfare of students or our nation.
The Illinois Family Institute, the Alliance Defense Fund and Mauck & Baker are on the front lines in a bloodless war we as Americans cannot afford to lose.