A moment of silence is a short time when people do not make noise. A moment of silence shows respect for people who have died. Many countries observe a minute of silence after a tragic event. Moments of silence often last one minute, but other amounts of time may be chosen.
On November 11th, many countries observe a two-minute silence to remember those who have died in World Wars. The tradition was started in 1919 exactly one year after the end of World War I. It became an official part of the annual service on Remembrance Day or Armistice Day.
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 playing the "Last Post".
Origins[change | change source]
The first recorded instance of an official moment of silence dedicated to a dead person took place in Portugal on February 13, 1912. The Portuguese Senate dedicated 10 minutes of silence to José Maria da Silva Paranhos Júnior, baron of Rio Branco, Brazil, and Minister of the Exterior of the Brazilian government, who died three days earlier on February 10. This moment of silence was registered in the Senate's records of that day. In the same year, large parts of the United States kept a ceremonial silence to honour the dead of the Maine and the Titanic.
Moments of silence and the separation of church and state[change | change source]
In the United States, some people say 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 Virginia and made a compulsory 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. 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.
US States that have a moment of silence[change | change source]
- Florida (As of 4/22/21)
Notes[change | change source]
- The First South African. A P Cartwright. p. 224, and A two-minute silent pause to remember: time From Africa. J.A. Abrahams.
- Adrian Gregory 1994. The silence of memory. pp 9–10.
- "Debates Parlamentares - Diário 039, p. 2 (1912-02-13)". debates.parlamento.pt. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
O Sr. Presidente: Tenho de cumprir o doloroso dever de comunicar ao Senado o falecimento, no Rio de Janeiro, do Barão do Rio Branco, que ilustrou grandemente o seu nome, tanto pela maneira como dirigiu os negócios diplomáticos do Brasil como pela erudição manifestada nas suas obras, e que muito honrou a sua origem lusitana. (Apoiados gerais). Além disso devemos lembrar-nos de que o Barão do Rio Branco era Ministro do Govêrno que primeiro reconheceu a República Portuguesa. (Apoiados gerais). Por consideração, pois, para com todos êstes aspectos daquele vulto notável, proponho que a sessão seja interrompida durante 10 minutos, conservando-se os Srs. Senadores sentados nos seus lugares e silenciosos durante êsse espaço de tempo. (Apoiados gerais). Às 14 horas e 45 minutos foi, portanto, suspensa a sessão, reabrindo-se às 14 e 55 minutos. The President: I must fulfill the painful duty of communicating to the Senate the death in Rio de Janeiro of the baron of Rio Branco, who made his name illustrious with the manner in which he conducted the diplomatic business of Brazil as well as with the erudition manifested in his work, and who honored his Portuguese origins with grandeur. Furthermore, we must remember that the baron of Rio Branco was a Minister of the government that first recognized the Portuguese Republic. Thus, in consideration of all these aspects related to this notable figure, I propose that the session be interrupted for 10 minutes, with the Senators remaining on their seats in silence for that period of time. At 14 hours and 45 minutes the session was therefore suspended, reopening at 14 hours and 55 minutes.
- Maitland, Sara (2010). A book of silence. Berkeley,Ca: Counterpoint. ISBN 9781619021426.
- "moment of silence - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com". www.skepdic.com.
- "Virginia Senate OKs Schools' Moment of Silence". American Civil Liberties Union.
- "Florida Senate Passes "Moment of Silence"". 22 April 2021.