Texas' Moment of Silence is being challenged

By Lane Luckie - bio | email and Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Texas Attorney General is defending a law that lets students pray during a moment of silence in public schools. Last year, a north Texas couple sued, claiming the law was unconstitutional. The law was upheld, but the couple is now appealing the judge's decision. East texas news nine's lane takes a look at how lufkin isd is handling the debate...

Like clockwork, the schoolbell rings and students across Texas begin each day reciting the pledge of allegiance. Then by State law, observe a minute of silence.

Lufkin Independent School District Superintendent Roy Knight said, "It affords those students who choose that opportunity to engage in either prayer or a moment of silence or a moment of reflection. Those that don't-- only God and [they] know what's going on in their mind for that minute."

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal is reviewing the law again, because a Dallas couple claimed their child was told to be quiet because it's "time for prayer". That is something Harvest Point Church pastor Rick Scarborough and founder of Vision America disagrees with. "Prayer by definition can be anything. They can be praying to a tree for that matter. My prayer is that kids will have sense enough to know they need help from above," he said.

Superintendent Knight said the minute of silence is a "non-issue" in East Texas. "I think it's reflective of the fact that our community accepts this and embraces this. Kids should have that right," he said.

Knight said he knows prayers are being said, not just during the minute of silence. "I promise you right before those tests there are a lot of prayers being issued by high school kids."

Prayer is something that Pastor Scarborough said helps students make sense of their lives. He remembers the ourpouring of grief on 9/11. "Everybody was praying that day. There were no complaints filed by the A.C.L.U. or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. They dared not."

No matter what the minute is used for, or if it will exist in the future, Knight said every child deserves an enriching education, which is his main concern. "It's my job as superintendent to uphold their right and respect that right."

Several of the students we talked to told us they actually use the moment of silence to start their school day and they would not be happy if it was taken away.

Nacogdoches High School sophomore Allyson Harris said, "I think I would be offended because it would take away my right to have the time to pray." She added, "It is important to me because it's my time when I'm at school to pray and like ask forgiveness and for my teachers and help me through the day if I'm having a bad day to just get a good start on the day."

Mike Moses Middle School student Madison Harris said, "I pray for my family and throughout the day about what's going to happen that day and just hope everything goes well and just my time to talk to God."

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals began hearing arguments on the issue yesterday, but we want to hear what you think.  Is Texas' Moment of Silence Law, that permits students to "pray" or engage in "any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student," unconstitutional?

Vote on the issue at our home page, www.KTRE.com.