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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Makes Big Move to ‘Restore Protections For Prayer’ in Public Schools


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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is on a mission to “restore protections for prayer in schools.” The conservative governor announced this week her administration has drafted a bill aimed at that very goal.

The proposed legislation, which would create an opportunity for kids to “pray in schools at the start of every school day,” is sure to draw the ire of atheist activist groups and other First Amendment watchdogs, who are already taking aim at similar measures.

But Noem isn’t legislating sectarian prayer. The bill, titled, “A Moment of Silence,” would create a moment during which students are permitted to reflect on whatever they so choose.

Text of the bill specifically notes that the law would not offer permission or a pathway for schools to intentionally use the moment of silence to implement a “religious exercise.”

Furthermore, the governor said in a statement she’s hopeful pupils and teachers will use the time to offer an invocation or other reflective exercise, though use of the time is entirely voluntary.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to begin their day with a calm, silent moment,” Noem said. “I hope students will take this opportunity to say a quick prayer or reflect on their upcoming day. However they choose to take advantage of this time, it will be beneficial to students and teachers alike.”

More specifically, the proposed act would require a moment of silence each morning inside public schools — a time created to offer both kids and teachers “a reprieve from the frenzy of daily life” while also helping “set a tone of decorum that will be conducive to learning.”

Students and teachers would be given up to one minute to use as they wish, with the text of the proposed legislation offering suggestions for how these individuals might silently use their time.

“Students and teachers may engage in voluntary prayer, reflection, meditation, or other quiet, respectful activity during the moment of silence,” the copy reads. “No school employee may dictate the action to be taken by students or teachers during the moment of silence. No student may interfere with another student’s engagement in the moment of silence.”

It’s certainly an intriguing way to more intentionally offer time for prayer — and to even encourage it — while also keeping an open window for nonreligious individuals and agnostics to choose their own pathways toward mentally preparing for the day ahead.

The Argus Leader reported this move follows Noem’s successful 2019 quest to have “In God We Trust” displayed in all public schools. South Dakota’s legislative schedule begins on Jan. 11.

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