WASHINGTON The lawmaker who brought silence to Georgia's schools is expecting some noisy opposition in his crusade to bring it to the rest of the nation.
As his first major initiative as a congressman, Democrat David Scott introduced a measure yesterday that would require all public schools in the United States to begin each day with one minute of "quiet reflection." Scott shepherded a similar measure through the Georgia Legislature in 1994, and it's still law today.
Scott said he always believed the moment-of-silence law, perhaps his top legacy in a state legislative career that spanned more than two decades, should be broadened to include schools across America. When he was elected last year to represent Atlanta's new 13th District in Congress, Scott had that national platform.
Scott said, "If we at this time can debate the heady issues of sending our young boys and girls to war several thousand miles away, surely we owe it to them to debate an issue that can give them that inner strength through a moment of silence."
Although Scott insists Georgia schools have benefited from the mandated moment of silence, the measure always had its detractors who insisted it represented the first step down a path toward prayer in school, which they fiercely oppose. A federal effort figures to be even more controversial.
Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, "This is another back-door method to return government-promoted religion and prayer to public schools. There is no legitimate educational reason for a federally mandated minute of quiet time."
Scott says he doesn't support mandated prayer either, and his legislation expressly states that the moment of silence not be conducted as a religious exercise.
In October 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a challenge to Virginia's moment-of-silence statute, leaving the law in force for that state's schools.