Court Ruled That a Prayer Room in the Illinois Legislature Did Not Violate the Nonestablishment of Religion Clause

In 1985, the Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution authorizing the establishment of a

In 1985, the Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution authorizing the establishment of a "prayer room" in the state capital building, as a "quiet and special place where the members of the General Assembly may seek God, the comfort of His presence, the light of His guidance, and the strength of His love."

To alleviate any constitutional questions, the room was made "nonsectarian," and the costs of renovation and maintenance were to be borne by private contributions. Shortly after the resolution was adopted, it was challenged in court on the grounds that it was an unconstitutional "establishment of religion."

A federal appeals court rejected this challenge, largely on the basis of a 1983 decision of the United States Supreme Court finding that the Nebraska legislature's practice of opening each session with a prayer read by a state-employed chaplain did not violate the First Amendment's nonestablishment of religion clause.

The appeals court observed that "if legislators may collectively bow their heads while a clergyman, paid from public funds, invokes the Deity to bless and assist their efforts, it seems absurd to find fault with the designation of a room in which they may pray or meditate privately as they individually see fit."

The court also based its ruling in part on "a degree of deference to the internal spiritual practices of another branch of government or of a branch of the government of another sovereign," and upon a tradition of legislators acknowledging, in relatively modest and nonintrusive ways, some role for spiritual values in their work." However, the court cautioned that "the intrusion of sectarian influences and religious emphases [in the decoration and use of the prayer room] could give rise to an establishment clause violation." Van Zandt v. Thompson, 839 F.2d 1215 (7th Cir. 1988)

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay