Texas public schools would be required to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting next school year under a bill that was approved by the Texas Senate on Thursday. The legislation, Senate Bill 1515, will now head to the state House for consideration.
Texas Republican Sen. Phil King said during a committee hearing earlier this month that he wanted the state to bring the Ten Commandments back into the classroom because they are a crucial part of the American heritage.
“[The bill] will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America,” King said during the hearing, according to the Texas Tribune.
If the bill passed in the Texas Senate, it would be sent to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law. ((Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images))
He also said the U.S. Supreme Court signaled the bill was constitutional after it ruled in favor of Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for praying before games.
The proposal comes on the heels of the passage of a law in August that requires schools to display “In God We Trust” signs in a “conspicuous place” as long as are “donated” or “purchased by private donations”
“The national motto, In God We Trust, asserts our collective trust in a sovereign God,” Texas Republican State Sen. Bryan Hughes, who sponsored the legislation, wrote on Twitter. “I co-authored the bill in 2003 that allowed schools to display the motto, and last year I authored the ‘In God We Trust Act,’ which requires a school to display the motto if there is no cost associated with the display.”
The Senate also gave final passage to Senate Bill 1396, which would allow public and charter schools to adopt a policy that would set aside time for students and employees to pray and read religious texts like the Bible at school.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R., applauded both pieces of legislation as wins for religious liberty in the state.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The Supreme Court heard two cases on whether Ten Commandments monuments should be displayed on government properties in 2005. ((Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))
“I believe that you cannot change the culture of the country until you change the culture of mankind,” he added. “Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.”
The Senate also passed Bill 1556, which would codify the Supreme Court’s ruling on the high school football coach into law and protect the right of school employees to engage in religious speech or prayer “while on duty.”
Democratic strategist and communications consultant Sawyer Hackett blasted the proposed law “absolutely crazy.”
The ACLU of Texas told the Washington Post that the legislation is an “example of failed priorities and failed leadership.”
The state Capitol in Austin has had a monument of the Ten Commandments on display since 1961. ((Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images))
“The U.S. Constitution expressly prohibits the entanglement of church and state, and the Texas Constitution guarantees the freedom of worship,” David Donatti, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas, told The Washington Post. “Whether we choose to belong to one religion or none at all, people of all faiths and creeds should together resist the state’s endorsement of one particular religion.”
The state Capitol in Austin has had a monument of the Ten Commandments on display since 1961, according to the Texas State Preservation Board.