Oct. 27, 2007 10:56 AM
CHICAGO - A 14-year-old girl and her outspoken atheist
father filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging a
new Illinois law requiring a brief period of prayer or
reflective silence at the start of every school day.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the law
unconstitutional, said attorney Gregory Kulis, who
represents Dawn Sherman, a freshman at Buffalo Grove
High School, and her father Robert Sherman, a radio
talk show host.
Kulis said the law is an attempt to inject religion
into public schools in violation of the First
Amendment. The suit also seeks a temporary restraining
order to halt schools' obeying the law until the case
is decided. A judge will consider that request at a
The lawsuit names Gov. Rod Blagojevich and officials
of Township High School District 214 as defendants.
School district spokeswoman Venetia Miles said schools
will continue to comply with the law.
Blagojevich spokesman Abby Ottenhoff said the law was
passed over the governor's veto.
"We don't believe requiring time for reflection is the
role of government," Ottenhoff said.
Sherman said he went to court after he asked the
school board to ignore the law and was rebuffed. The
school district informed him it would carry out the
moment of silence during third period, beginning
Tuesday, the lawsuit said.
"What we object to is Christians passing a law that
requires the public school teacher to stop teaching
during instructional time, paid for by the taxpayers,
so that Christians can pray," Sherman told The
An Illinois law called the Silent Reflection and
Student Prayer Act already allowed schools to observe
a moment of silence if they wanted. A new measure
changed just a single word: "may" observe became
The Illinois law originally passed during the spring
legislative session, but Blagojevich vetoed it, saying
he had doubts about its constitutionality. Lawmakers
overrode the veto this month.
It's not Sherman's first church-and-state lawsuit and
not the first to involve his children. He has sought
removal of religious symbols from city seals and a ban
on Boy Scout meetings at public schools.
Some school administrators have complained the law is
too ill-defined and puts many teachers and some
students in an awkward position.
The Shermans may have legitimate concerns, but they
are suing the wrong party when they target the school
district, said Brian McCarthy, an attorney for the
"The General Assembly - for better, worse, foolish or
wise - passed this law and it's not up to school
districts to pick and choose which laws they follow,"
McCarthy said. "He needs to go after the entity that
enforces that law."