I think Kristi Noem is transferring her rage. Worried that she can’t keep Sherry Bren quiet, she’s now ordering everyone in South Dakota’s schools to shut up.
Yesterday South Dakota’s part-time Governor posted draft legislation to require a moment of silence every day in South Dakota’s public schools. Strangely, instead of posting the actual school prayer bill to the state website, Noem continues to use some private service called WeTransfer.com to share documents. When I click on the link on the Governor’s announcement that says “You can read the legislation here,” the first thing I see is a Gucci ad that says “#ForeverGuilty”:
The Governor’s link also brings up ads for Tommy Hilfiger and Dalmore scotch whisky:
Hmmm… so I guess this announcement is less about a moment of silence and more about a moment of advertising?
If we can get past the fact that the Governor is using a state website to promote commercial products (what, no Goya Beans?), let’s push the blue button, accept the download, and post a copy of Noem’s bill here so we can skip all of her ads until LRC gets a copy up on its 2022 Session Bills webpag:
Noem starts with a section of complete fluffery, making her school prayer bill masquerade as an effort to “set a tone of decorum that will be conducive to learning.” Yes, because throughout her public career, Noem has demonstrated her expertise in decorum and learning.
Section 2 gives us the meat of the mandate: Governor Noem would order every school district to “provide” a “moment of silence” up to one minute long. Noem expects students and teachers to participate in this moment of silence. The first activity the bill recommends is “voluntary prayer”; as usual, Noem puts non-religious activities like “reflection, meditation, or other quiet, respectful activity” second.
However, Noem’s mandate is muddy. “No school employee may dictate the action to be taken during the moment of silence,” reads the draft. As a teacher, I would read that to mean that I cannot tell kids to pray or not to pray during the moment. Nor by that language can I actually dictate that they be silent. For up to a whole minute, the law prevents me from dictating and hence from prohibiting any activity during the moment of silence: Ibrahim could hit the floor and pray noisily to Mecca, Gooney McBuckshot’s kids could start speaking in tongues, and Ferris and Sloane could slip out to make out in the hall.
Section 3 appears to be legal CYA suggested by Noem’s crack lawyers. But her pretense that this government mandate is not to be construed as a “religious exercise” is belied by her eager public statement that she is bringing prayer back to school:
Today, Governor Kristi Noem released the text of legislation to restore protections for prayer in schools. This bill will guarantee an opportunity to pray in schools at the start of every school day.
“Every student deserves the opportunity to begin their day with a calm, silent moment,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “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.”
Governor Noem previewed this legislation earlier this year when she promised to put prayer back in South Dakota schools [Governor Kristi Noem, press release: “Gov. Noem Announces Bill to Restore Protections for Prayer in Schools,” 2021.12.13].
Noem harkens here to the “big push” she falsely claimed to be making last summer when she told a conservative Christian political activist group that she was “putting prayer back in our schools.” Noem’s own words and their context make clear her “moment of silence” seeks to promote her particular religion, meaning any court not co-opted by Trumpists will throw it out immediately as an establishment of religion on the public dime.
Kristi, if we want your god, or any other god, we’ll find it on our own. We don’t need you ordering the public schools to promote your religion. And we certainly don’t need you telling kids and teachers to shut up every day.