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Copyright (c) 2004 University of Denver (Colorado Seminary)
Denver University Law Review

ARTICLE: A Rose by Any Other Name: School Prayer Redefined as a Moment of Silence is Still Unconstitutional


82 Denv. U.L. Rev. 57


Lee Ann Rabe +


I. Introduction

Views on prayer in public schools have been sharply divided ever since the Supreme Court affirmed the separation of church and state in that setting. 1 Various political interest groups have repeatedly attempted to "return God to the classroom" by introducing legislation aimed at restoring prayer to public schools. 2 Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, there is a renewed interest in school prayer. 3 Many state governments are considering passing legislation mandating a "moment of silence" or otherwise promoting prayer in public schools. 4 The issue of prayer in public schools has also re-emerged in the federal court system, in the guise of objections to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. 5 Also, at least one candidate for state governor wants to make returning prayer to public schools a major plank in his campaign. 6 In Wallace v. Jaffree, 7 the Court held that laws creating a moment of silence are unconstitutional if the purpose is to promote religion; however, the Court seemed to leave open the possibility that moment of silence laws, enacted without such motivations, might be constitutional.

For a movement that has been seeking to reintroduce prayer in schools for more than 40 years, the potential loophole left open by the Court in Jaffree appears to be a golden opportunity when combined with increased popular support for prayer in general following the September 11th attacks. 8 How much of an opportunity ...
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