Texas lawmakers are working hard to include more religion into schools. The Texas state Senate approved on April 20, 2023, two bills that promote religion in the Lone Star State’s educational system.
The first bill would require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom, reports Premier Christian News. State Sen. Phil King (R), who authored the measure, said “[It] will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America.”
I think this would be a good healthy step for Texas to bring back this tradition of recognizing America’s religious heritage. —Phil King, Republican Texas state senator
The lawmaker disclosed that his proposal was in response to the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in the Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The Court ruled it illegal for a high school football coach to be terminated from his job after praying in public. With this decision, the Supreme Court protected the right to freely exercise religion.
“This legislation only became legally feasible with the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Lemon Test,” King said at the committee hearing. “I think this would be a good healthy step for Texas to bring back this tradition of recognizing America’s religious heritage.”
The Senate also approved the legislation which would allow public, non-religious school districts to set aside time every day for students and employees to pray and read the Bible or other religious texts. This would be an optional “period of prayer and Bible reading on each school day.” If passed by the House of Representatives, the bill would allow schools to use its public address system in Bible reading and delivering prayers.
The bill states: “A public school student has an absolute right to individually, voluntarily, and silently pray or meditate in school in a manner that does not disrupt the instructional or other activities of the school.”
In a Pew survey of American teens published in 2019, it showed that “some forms of religious expression are relatively common in public schools.”
According to the survey, about half of U.S. teens in public schools (53%) say students are free to express their religion through their clothes (such as an Islamic headscarf) or jewelry (such as a necklace with a Christian cross or a Jewish Star of David). Also, about four-in-ten respondents say they see student athletes praying before sporting events. The data also suggested that about 25% of American teens often or sometimes see other students inviting peers to join religious youth groups or worship services.
Texas Lt. Gov., Dan Patrick, gave his full support in this initiative, saying both bills push for “religious liberty in Texas,” according to The Guardian. “I believe that you cannot change the culture of the country until you change the culture of mankind,” Patrick said in a statement. “Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.”