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Illinois Prayer in Public Schools Laws

Few issues seem as divisive in Illinois today as prayer in public schools. Regardless of the side of the debate on which you fall, it is always important to know what Prairie State law has to say on the matter. This is a quick summary of prayer in public school law in Illinois.

Prayer in Public Schools

Prayer in public schools is often a subject of heated debate, pitting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment against the freedom of speech. Some states offer no statutory guidance, while states with broad school prayer protections have faced court challenges. While states can have different prayer in public schools laws, Illinois specifically allows for a brief period of silence in which students may silently pray or use the time for silent reflection or meditation.

Prayer in Public Schools Laws in Illinois

Learn more about school prayer and Illinois law with the table and links below.

Applicable Code Section

105 ILCS 20/1

What is Allowed?

Brief period of silence which shall not be conducted as a religious exercise but shall be an opportunity for silent prayer or for silent reflection

Illinois has what is referred to as a "minute of silence" law, which is permissible so long as the state imposes absolutely no pressure on students to pray or engage in any kind of religious activity. If students are allowed to study, read, meditate, or contemplate anything they wish during the minute of silence, courts will allow it. Schools are also permitted to observe minutes of silence to recognize a great tragedy, such as the death of one of their fellow students. However, it is important to note that once a teacher suggests that the moment of silence should be used for prayer, the activity is considered to advance religion and is constitutionally impermissible.

Even with clear instructions from court regarding minutes of silence, debates can still exist about the other kinds of religious activities allowed in public schools. Some examples of the practices that are allowed include individual students praying during the day as long as they don’t disrupt educational activities, use of school facilities by religious groups, and permission for student-organized religious groups to meet on school property before and after the school day.

Illinois Prayer in Public Schools Laws: Related Resources

Figuring out how the education (and legal) system deals with religion can be tricky. You can visit FindLaw's Religion at School section for additional resources on this topic. If you would like legal advice, you can contact an Illinois education attorney to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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