In areas such as public schools or town halls, the moment of silence has brought a remedy for those seeking religious tolerance, advocates for the separation of church and state, and others urging the removal of religion out of the public.
In public schools, students adhering to religious beliefs such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism would be alloted time for prayer, during which time Buddhist students could meditate, and atheist students could reflect on the upcoming day.
Colin Powell, a long time advocate, recommends a simple moment of silence at the start of each school day. Further, he states that students could use this interval to pray, meditate, contemplate or study.
Contrary to popular belief, prayer is widely permitted in US public schools, and due to the 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision, only official organization, sponsorship, or endorsement of prayer is forbidden by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Teachers and school officials may not lead classes in prayer; prayer is permitted at voluntary religious clubs, and students are not forbidden from praying themselves. Other rulings have forbidden public prayer at school assemblies, sporting events, and similar school-sponsored activities.
Although since 1976 the state Virginia law permitted school districts to implement 60 seconds of silence at the start of each school day, in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Alabama "moment of silence" law was unconstitutional. In April 2000, a new law came into being; requiring all Virginian public school students to observe a moment of silence
In October 2000, the U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton ruled that the "moment of silence" law was constitutional. Judge Hilton stated, "The court finds that the Commonwealth's daily observance of one minute of silence act is constitutional. The act was enacted for a secular purpose, does not advance or inhibit religion, nor is there excessive entanglement with religion...Students may think as they wish -- and this thinking can be purely religious in nature or purely secular in nature. All that is required is that they sit silently."
The American Civil Liberties Union has long opposed the practice.
See alo: public prayer; prayer in school; civil religion