1983 January 6

“Moment of Silence” Causes Uproar in New Jersey Schools


Protests from parents on this day followed the enactment of a law in New Jersey that would require all public school classes to begin the day with a “moment of silence.” The New Jersey ACLU announced that it would challenge the law in court on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state. Several states adopted similar laws in an effort to evade the Supreme Court ruling that a mandatory prayer in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. (See Engel v. Vitale, decided on June 25, 1962.) The Supreme Court declared an Alabama moment-of-silence law unconstitutional in Wallace v. Jaffree on June 4, 1985, thereby invalidating the New Jersey law.

Learn more about the Establishment Clause: https://www.aclu.org/religion-belief

Read: Jeremy Gunn and John Witte, No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (2012)

And more about the religion clauses of the First Amendment: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

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