Saying she wants to “restore protections for prayer in schools,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday introduced a draft bill that would require public schools to have a moment of silence each morning that would last up to one minute and would be free of interference from school officials.
The bill does not require that the moment be used for prayer, although it does list prayer alongside other activities – including meditation and reflection – that are often conducted during such brief events.
Each student would decide how the moment of silence is used.
“Every student deserves the opportunity to begin their day with a calm, silent moment,” Noem said. “I hope students will take this opportunity to say a quick prayer or reflect on their upcoming day. However they choose to take advantage of this time, it will be beneficial to students and teachers alike.”
A press release from her office said the bill would “restore protections for prayer in schools.”
The bill, which must pass the South Dakota legislature to become law, says teachers and schoolchildren “are best served by a moment of silence at the start of every school day” to “afford them a reprieve from the frenzy of daily life and to set a tone of decorum that will be conducive to learning.”
It would require that each school district “provide students and teachers the opportunity each morning” to “have a moment of silence lasting up to one minute.”
“Students and teachers may engage in voluntary prayer, reflection, meditation, or other quiet, respectful activity during the moment of silence,” the text of the bill says.
Employees cannot “dictate the action to be taken by students or teachers during the moment of silence,” the bill says. Further, other students are prohibited from interfering with students during the moment of silence.
Seeking to pass constitutional muster, the bill makes it clear that the moment of silence is free of any religious requirement.
“Nothing in this Act,” it says, “shall be construed to permit schools to conduct the moment of silence as a religious exercise.”
Photo courtesy: Sean Kong/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.