Church v. State
Texas Senate approves bills requiring 10 Commandments in K-12 classrooms, Bible time in school
The Texas Senate approved a bill Thursday that would require public schools in the state to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom, starting next school year, The Texas Tribune reports. The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Phil King (R), argued earlier this month that the Ten Commandments are part of American heritage, and his legislation "will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America."
The state Senate also gave final passage to legislation that would allow public and charter schools to require that time be set aside for students and employees to pray and read the Bible or other religions texts. The bills are "the latest attempt from Texas Republicans to inject religion into public schools," the Tribune reports. In 2021, the state Legislature passed a law require schools to display "In God We Trust" signs donated by community members.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick backs both bills, calling them wins for religion freedom. "Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.," he said in a statement. Proponents of the bills argue they will withstand challenges on constitutional grounds after the Supreme Court ruled last year that a Washington State high school football coach could pray at football games.
John Litzler, general counsel for the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, told the Senate his organization opposed taxpayer money being used on religious texts and religious education. "I should have the right to introduce my daughter to the concepts of adultery and coveting one's spouse," Litzler said in a committee hearing. "It shouldn't be one of the first things she learns to read in her kindergarten classroom."
The bills face uncertain futures in the Texas House, where lawmakers just approved legislation that would ban "sexually explicit" books from school libraries and require parental consent for "sexually relevant" books. Two years ago, the Legislature limited how K-12 teachers can present current events and teach about the history of racism in America.