Also up for consideration: Requiring the Ten Commandments be displayed in classrooms and dedicated time for prayer, Bible reading.
In kindergarten classrooms across Texas, 5-year-olds coming to school for the first time could soon be greeted by picture books, colorful blocks and the words, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”
As those children grow up in the state’s public schools, they could get dedicated time in the day to read the Bible or pray. And if they are going through a hard time, they could turn to a chaplain — rather than a licensed school counselor — for help on campus.
The religious bills are backed by powerful figures both inside and outside the Capitol building and are arriving as Republicans double-down on what is seen as a winning issue to energize their base: accusing public schools of indoctrinating students with a “woke” agenda.
On Tuesday, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that would allow schools to employ chaplains in addition to school counselors, with Republicans overriding objections by Democrats to send the proposal to the governor’s desk. The chaplains who, unlike school counselors, are not required to be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification.
“I worry that this bill will lead to Christian nationalists infiltrating our public schools and indoctrinating our students,” Democratic Rep. James Talarico, a Presbyterian seminarian, told Religion News Service in a phone interview from the House floor on Tuesday. Texas Senate Democrats made similar arguments during debate over the bill last month, and multiple Democratic House members made efforts to amend it — with mixed results. Talarico sought to bar chaplains from proselytizing and require parental consent before meeting with students, and Rep. Toni Rose sought to limit the bill to schools in counties with populations of less than 150,000. Separately, Rep. Gene Wu attempted to bar the use of public funds and require schools to provide a religious leader of a different faith for students who request them, all to no avail.
“I see this as part of a troubling trend across the country of Christian nationalists attempting to take over our democracy and attempting to take over my religion — both of which I find deeply offensive,” Talarico said
The National School Chaplain Association, an arm of the Christian group Mission Generation, said the bill would increase school safety.