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"One minute silence" redirects here. For the band, see One Minute Silence.
"Minute of silence" redirects here. For the Soviet radio program, see Minute of Silence.

A moment of silence is the expression for a period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection, or meditation. Similar to flying a flag at half-mast, a moment of silence is often a gesture of respect, particularly in mourning for those who have recently died or as part of a commemoration ceremony of a tragic historical event.

Many people in western countries observe a moment of silence, often two minutes, at 11:00 am on 11 November each year (Remembrance Day) to remember sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war.

One minute is a common length of time for the commemoration, though other periods of time may be chosen, normally connected in some way with the event being commemorated (there might be a minute given for every death commemorated, for example). During the moment of silence, participants may typically bow their heads, remove hats, and refrain from speaking or moving places for the duration. A person officiating or presiding over the gathering will be responsible for the declaring and timing of the period of silence.

Supporters and players of Fulham F.C. and Newcastle United F.C. observe a minute silence in memory of Jim Langley prior to a football match.

A moment of silence may be accompanied by other acts of symbolic significance, such as the tolling of bells, the release of doves or balloons, or a performance of the Last Post.

In recent years a trend has developed (particularly with British sports fans) to fill the traditional minute of silence with a minute's applause. Psychologically this is seen by some to convey a fond celebration of the deceased rather than the traditional solemnity. Recent recipients of the minute's applause include deceased footballers Jock Stein, George Best, Ernie Cooksey, and Alan Ball. The death of Ray Gravell, former Llanelli rugby club president and Welsh international, was also marked in this way at various rugby grounds in the UK. [1] It is frequently alleged that the predominant reason for the minute's applause tending to replace the minute's silence is out of fear that opposition fans will not respect the silence, and spend their time booing, jeering or otherwise attempting to disrupt it; many silences have been cut short from the usual minute to thirty seconds or less for this reason.


Legal issues in the United States

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962, in Engel v. Vitale, that official organization, sponsorship, or endorsement of school prayer is forbidden by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in public school. Teachers and school officials may not lead classes in prayer, but prayer is permitted at voluntary religious clubs, and students are not forbidden from praying themselves. Other rulings have forbidden public, organized prayer at school assemblies, sporting events, and similar school-sponsored activities.

Public moments of silence in the United States both arise from and contribute to this debate over prayer, and the separation of church and state. A moment of silence lacks any specific religious formulation, and therefore it has been presented as a way of creating reflection and respect without endorsing any particular sect. Colin Powell, a long time advocate, has recommended 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.

However, critics often view the moment of silence as publicly endorsing prayer "in disguise". This issue has been especially raised by atheists groups and advocates, who argue that no non-religious purpose is served by designating an official moment of silence[citation needed]. They point out, for example, that many schools have entire class periods dedicated to silent study, which can equally be used for silent prayer or meditation.[citation needed]

Although since 1976 the state Virginia law permitted school districts to implement 60 seconds of silence at the start of each school day,[2] in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Alabama "moment of silence or voluntary prayer" law was unconstitutional, in the case Wallace v. Jaffree. In April 2000, a new law came into being; requiring all Virginian public school students to observe a moment of silence.[1] Also, in 2005, a law was passed in Indiana requiring all public schools to give students a chance to say the pledge of allegiance and observe a moment of silence every day.[citation needed] In October 2007, Illinois enacted legislation to require public schools to provide students with a moment of silence at the start of the school day, a statute that is currently being challenged in Illinois state courts. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia also require such moments of quiet in the classroom. In more than 20 other states, teachers are allowed to decide whether they want such a classroom time-out.

In October 2000, the U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton ruled that the "moment of silence" law was constitutional.[1][3] 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."[4] His ruling was upheld in the 4th circuit.[5][6]

The American Civil Liberties Union was opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment by Newt Gingrich in the early 1990's which would have set aside a voluntary moment of prayer during the school day, which was later independently described by President Bill Clinton as a "moment of silence". They considered this stealth endorsement of prayer in school.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Everton lead Alan Ball tributes". Current Events. April 28, 2007. 
  2. ^ "Code of Virginia § 22.1-203". 
  3. ^ "Court upholds Virginia's 'moment of silence'". Christian Century. November 15, 2000. 
  4. ^ "Court upholds constitutionality of 'silence' law", Baptist Joint Committee. Report from the Capital, 2000-NOV-7, Page 3.
  5. ^ Brooke A. Masters (July 25, 2001). "Va. Minute Of Silence In Schools Is Upheld: Federal Judges Rule Law Is Not Unconstitutional". pp. B01. 
  6. ^ "U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals: Brown v. Gilmore" (PDF). Decemberided: July 24, 2001. 
  7. ^ "Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer or Moment of Silence". 

External links

Simple English

There is also a video game called The Moment of Silence, and a poem called "Moment of Silence".

A moment of silence is a short time when people do not make noise. People use a moment of silence to show respect for people who have died or when something else bad has happened.

Moments of silence often last one minute, but other amounts of time may be chosen. Sometimes people choose the length of a moment of silence to connect with the event being honored. For example, a person might choose to have one minute of silence for each death being honored.

During the moment of silence, people often bow their heads, remove their hats, and do not speak or move. A person in charge of a group will tell everyone when the moment begins and ends. A moment of silence may come before or after other events with symbolic meaning. Examples of these events are the ringing of bells, the release of doves or balloons, or a bugle (trumpet) song called "Last Post."

Moments of silence and the separation of church and state

In the United States, some people say[1] that allowing prayer as part of a moment of silence means that moments of silence can make it hard to keep the separation of church and state (the idea that religion and government should not affect each other).

Moments of silence do not have to be time for prayers. They can be used for other thoughts that are not religious. Many people who want time for prayers in public schools and government meetings use moments of silence so that some people can pray and other people do not have to pray. Because they represent the government, and because the Constitution of the United States says that government cannot force people to do religious things, these people cannot tell other people to pray.

When public schools have a moment of silence, Buddhist students could meditate (relax and think calm thoughts), students with other religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism could pray, and atheist students could think about the day ahead.

Colin Powell, a famous government leader, likes having moments of silence in schools. He has said that a simple moment of silence at the start of each school day is a good idea. He also has said that students could use this time to pray, meditate, think, or study.

Many people believe that prayer is not allowed in United States public schools, but this is not true. The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that students can pray in school, but teachers and other school leaders cannot lead the prayers. Students can form clubs where they can pray, and they can pray alone, but they cannot lead prayers at school events. The reason prayer is not allowed at those times is because of the First Amendment. The First Amendment says that government cannot force people to do religious things, and public schools are part of the government.

In 1976, the state of Virginia allowed schools to have a moment of silence at the start of the school day. This moment would last one minute. In 1985, the Supreme Court said that a "moment of silence" law in Alabama would not work with the United States Constitution and could not be used. In 2005, the state of Indiana made a law that said all public schools had to give students time to say the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence every day.

In April 2000, Virginia changed its law to say that all public schools in Virginia had to have a moment of silence (before this change, schools could choose not to have a moment of silence). In October 2000, a judge named Claude M. Hilton said that the "moment of silence" law was allowed by the United States Constitution. Judge Hilton said that the law has a secular (not religious) purpose, that the law does not make religion more important or less important, and that the law does not make government and religion be too close to each other. Judge Hilton also said, "Students may think as they wish," and that this thinking could be religious or not religious. He said that the only thing students had to do because of the law was sit and be quiet.

In March 2008, Illinois followed Virgina and made a compulsive 30 seconds moment of silence but was lifted in August.

The American Civil Liberties Union thinks that these laws that say public schools should have moments of silence are a bad idea[2]. They think they are a bad idea because the laws are made to give students time to pray, and that makes religion more important than non-religion.

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