Texas Senate Passes Pro-Religion in Schools Bills

Backpack with a bible in a classroom. | Image by Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Two bills have passed in the Texas Senate that would require public schools to display the Ten Commandments and allow schools to dedicate time to prayer and religious studies.

Both pieces of legislation are now on their way to the Texas House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1515, authored by Texas Senator Phil King (R-Weatherford), would instruct public elementary schools to display a poster or framed copy of the text of the Ten Commandments in a place where it can be clearly seen by students.

Meanwhile, Texas Senator Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) authored Senate Bill 1396, which would permit school boards to hold a record vote to “adopt a policy requiring every campus of the district or school to provide students and employees with an opportunity to participate in a period of prayer and reading of the Bible or other religious text on each school day.”

This legislation would apply not only to public schools but also to open-enrollment charter schools not formally affiliated with a religious organization.

Middleton clarified that his bill “does not make participation in prayer, or the reading of a religious text or Bible reading, compulsory in any way” and is intended to provide “a space to free expression of religion in our public schools and open-enrollment charter schools,” the Texas Scorecard reported.

“The reality is that our school children and our school faculty spend much of their lives in the school building and in the classroom,” he said on the Senate floor. “Our schools are not God-free zones, and this bill significantly expands those religious liberties in our public school system.”

Earlier this month, during a Senate committee hearing on SB 1515, King defended his bill by saying the Ten Commandments are part of the heritage of the United States.

He said his legislation “will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America,” The Texas Tribune reported.

While it may be expected that people entirely against religion would oppose both of these bills, the legislation has also received pushback from some people in religious communities.

John Litzler, general counsel and director of public policy at the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, raised concerns during the committee hearing about religious materials being purchased with taxpayer funds and religious conversations being introduced to children through school teachers rather than their parents.

“I should have the right to introduce my daughter to the concepts of adultery and coveting one’s spouse,” Litzler said, per The Texas Tribune. “It shouldn’t be one of the first things she learns to read in her kindergarten classroom.”

Both pieces of legislation, however, are supported by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

“I will never stop fighting for religious liberty in Texas,” he said in a statement. “Allowing the Ten Commandments and prayer back into our public schools is one step we can take to make sure that all Texans have the right to freely express their sincerely held religious beliefs.

“I believe that you cannot change the culture of the country until you change the culture of mankind,” Patrick continued. “Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.”

For these bills to become adopted by the state, however, they must first pass through the Texas House.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *