Last Thursday, August 20, Illinois Governor Rauner signed the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act. This is another example of the Illinois legislature passing unnecessary laws claiming to protect religious rights that are already protected by the Constitution. This new law does not add any additional protections that students wishing to pray in school did not have before. The law does however lack a mechanism that would ensure students are not coerced or that school employees are not endorsing these prayers. Furthermore, while the law applies to students of all religions, the language of the law specifically names two forms of group prayer, BIBLE (Basic Instruction Before Earth) clubs and "meet at the flagpole for prayer" days, both well-known to be predominately Christian.
The Secular Coalition for Illinois fully support students' right to participate in or refrain from prayer, a right enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the sectarian tone of this redundant new law calls into question the true intent of the legislature in passing it. The Secular Coalition for Illinois is disappointed that our elected officials would waste precious time on a bill that accomplishes nothing for students or the residents of Illinois, while using language that further alienates the nonreligious and non-Christian faiths.