Beliefnet
Washington, Oct. 29--(RNS) The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a Virginia law mandating that children in public schools observe a minute of silence each day.

Without comment, the high court turned down an appeal from critics who said the law is unconstitutional because it encourages classroom prayer in a public setting, the Associated Press reported. With the court action, the minute of silence will continue.

Enacted in 2000, the law cites prayer as one of several specific silent activities a student might do during a designated minute. The American Civil Liberties Union had appealed an appellate court ruling that found the law to be constitutional. "Although the statue permits students to engage in other forms of silent or meditative activity during the time period set aside in the classroom, the statute was enacted specifically to facilitate and encourage school prayer at that fixed time," the ACLU wrote.

Several other states have laws like Virginia's that cite prayer or religious observance among silent activities that may take place during a required time of silence.

The American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement after the court's decision expressing hopes that more states will adopt similar laws. "The court's refusal to enter this case is a proper and sound decision--one that leaves intact the constitutionality of a state law that's designed to permit students to begin each day with a minute of silence--that can indeed include prayer -- if they so desire," said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the law firm based in Virginia Beach, Va.

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