AUSTIN, Texas — Texas schoolchildren will continue to observe a daily minute of silence to pray or meditate after a federal court threw out a challenge to the state law as unconstitutional.
The Jan. 3 ruling Croft v. Perry stems from a complaint by a North Texas couple who say one of their children was told by an elementary schoolteacher to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."
The complaint, filed in 2006 by David and Shannon Croft, names Gov. Rick Perry and the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, which the Crofts' three children attend in the suburbs of Dallas.
"Whether schoolchildren use their morning moment of silence to pray or to prepare for a pop quiz, tolerance and personal freedom are lessons that should be taught and exercised regardless of our environment," Perry said. "Justice was served in this ruling and I am proud that Texas' children will continue to be able to have a moment dedicated daily to their innermost thoughts and contemplations."
Dean Cook, the Crofts' attorney, said he would read the opinion more closely and talk to the Crofts to decide whether to appeal.
"Obviously I'm disappointed with the opinion but I respect the judge and respect her opinion," he said. "Hopefully someday, even if it is not us, the Supreme Court will take this up and decide in our favor."
The 2003 law allows children to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities" for one minute after the American and Texas pledges at the beginning of each school day.
The law permits children to use the minute as they wish.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn upheld the constitutionality of the law, concluding that "the primary effect of the statute is to institute a moment of silence, not to advance or inhibit religion."
Lisa Graybill, legal director for the Texas ACLU, said even though Lynn found the language of the law neutral on religion, "we know that that intent (to put prayer back in school) is manifest in school districts across the state. We receive those kinds of complaints on a constant basis."
"Judge Lynn clearly carefully examined the legislative history," Graybill said. "We disagree with the outcome, but the judge herself said it's a difficult and close question."