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During a recent round of interviews with high school students at the Proviso Math and Science Academy, one young woman succinctly put into words the question so many of us have been pondering with respect to a new state mandate: What is the point of this?

The point, we’re sorry to say, to Sen. Kim Lightford’s bill mandating a moment of silence at the start of each school day is prayer.

Eliminate the euphemisms in the new law and it is clear that moments of silence in public schools, mandated by the state, are school prayer. Plainly, simply, unequivocally and unacceptably.

As the Illinois Senate’s voice of the 4th District, Lightford is the voice for residents living on the south side of Forest Park. That she would introduce this abhorrent legislation is an embarrassment and one that ought to have consequences come the next election. We will remember this and we will do more than pray for her defeat.

Though the extent to which educators in Forest Park are vexed by this new mandate varies, the consensus is that they find the legislation to be wholly unnecessary. It is unenforceable, controversial and forces teachers to step aside while bureaucrats needlessly parade through the classroom. Lawmakers are walking a thin line with the “Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act.”

That this is the piece of legislation that Illinois politicians can unite behind in a season when they can’t fix the CTA, can’t pass a budget, can’t fund schools, can’t get beyond the utter futility of political pettiness, is pathetic. If those other failures weren’t so critical this display of misplaced priorities would be laughable.

This, then, is how far Springfield has fallen.

Back in the real world where educators and parents and students do their jobs, we have yet another intrusion by state government into an area where it has no business, where there was no problem in search of a solution. There is not a single public school educator who sought the confusion and division that mandatory prayer will bring.

We applaud Gov. Rod Blagojevich for having the sense to veto this bill. He lost on the override but, in this single instance, he did the right thing. Let the legal challenges to this ill-advised legislation begin.

 


Correction

A statement in the Oct. 17 story “Hoop dreaming” was incorrectly attributed. Community Center Director Beverly Thompson said the asphalt surface used for basketball games at the center is in need of resurfacing, not Commissioner Rory Hoskins. The Review regrets the error.