On April 20, 2023, the Texas Senate passed a bill requiring every classroom in public schools in Texas to display the Ten Commandments prominently, starting from the next school year.
According to Senate Bill 1515 (via KHOU), by Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, every public elementary and secondary school will have to display the commandments in a “conspicuous place” in each classroom of the school. It must also be at least 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall, hung as a durable poster or framed “in a size and typeface that is legible to a person with average eyesight from anywhere in the classroom.”
During a committee hearing earlier this month, Sen. King stated that the Ten Commandments are a part of American heritage, and it is appropriate to reintroduce them into the classroom. He cited the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for praying at football games, as clearing the way for his bill. The court determined that Kennedy was praying as a private citizen and not as an employee of the district.
“[The bill] will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America,” Sen. King said during the hearing.
SB 1396, by Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, was also approved by the Senate, allowing public and charter schools to establish a policy that designates a specific time for students and employees to read the Bible or other religious texts and engage in prayer on campus.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised both bills, stating that they are significant achievements for religious freedom in Texas.
But both bills faced criticism from the other side. During the committee hearing, John Litzler, the general counsel and director of public policy at the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission cited concerns about the use of taxpayer funds to purchase religious texts. He argued that it should be the responsibility of parents, rather than schools, to discuss religion with their children.
“I should have the right to introduce my daughter to the concepts of adultery and coveting one's spouse,” Litzler said. “It shouldn’t be one of the first things she learns to read in her kindergarten classroom.”
The Senate passed the bill 17- 12 and now heads to the House for consideration.