August 17, 2000
The rewritten law of the Virginia General Assembly requires all public schools to hold a minute of silence. The American Civil Liberties Union will ask a federal judge to overturn this law a few days before public schools open in September; arguing that prayer is not only being allowed, but encouraged through this silent time. This, the ACLU believes, violates the First Amendment. ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis said “Every Virginia legislator knows the purpose of this law, it is an attempt to put state-sanctioned prayer back in our public schools, and that is both shameful and unconstitutional.” But Attorney General Mark L. Earley argues that allowing the minute gives the students free expression-a constitutional right.
“I have a right, as every American does, to speak words of faith when the spirit moves me,” Mr. Lieberman told ABC. As Mr. Lieberman prays and gives thanks to God, the media keeps silent. After naming Jesus Christ as his favorite political philosopher, weeks of criticism followed Gov. Bush. A Catholic archbishop was ridiculed as being “unpolitic” and “unfortunate” by praying, “keep us ever committed to protect the life and well-being of all people, but especially unborn children,” at the opening of the Democratic National Convention. Michael Medved, host of a nationally syndicated daily radio talk show asks, “why has this double standard flourished so shamelessly in America?” He believes the answer lies “in the basic assumption by most in the media [that] a conservative outlook emerges from selfishness and cruelty. But when “‘progressives’ cite religious sources in public debate, they do so to ‘uplift’ or ‘inspire’ America.”
Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Joseph Lieberman, in his address before the Democratic Convention, talked about the “Next Frontier.” He said that the next frontier is “not just in front of us, it is also inside us.” As the man who had the wisdom to castigate Bill Clinton on the Senate floor, this call would have had real power as an acknowledgement of the need for internal renewal. But instead, Lieberman, the man who quailed at the final step of moral reckoning and voted against impeachment, used this as a mere slogan, saying that our challenge is to “break down the barriers” still between us. In a pattern he has played out throughout his career, he backed down from the moral high ground, saying that the New Frontier is about achieving the “possibilities” of our “God-given lives” rather than challenging us to explore the limitless horizon of our God-given responsibilities.