A slab displaying the Ten Commandments rests behind the north side of the Capitol building in Austin. A bill passed by the Texas Senate would allow the commandments to be displayed in Texas classrooms.
Texas senators are looking to invite God into public schools.
The Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom in the state.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 1515, will make its way to the Texas House for consideration as the 88th Texas Legislature enters its final weeks.
If it passes the House and Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill into the law, the legislation is certain to face legal challenges.
SB 1515 calls for a 20-by-16-inch poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments to be displayed in classrooms and would take effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
Sen. Phil King — R-Weatherford, who authored the bill — said in a state Senate hearing that he believes the U.S. Supreme Court recently paved a path for the legislation’s passage. King cited the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in favor of a Washington state football coach who led his team in prayer at games, according to the Texas Tribune.
Coach Joe Kennedy was fired by the school board for post-game prayers on the football field, but the court ruled that he was discriminated against because he was praying as a private citizen and not as an employee of the district.
State senators also passed a bill that would allow prayer time and Bible reading at school. Senate Bill 1396 — authored by Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston — would authorize school districts to give each student time during the school day to pray and read the Bible.
In a statement after the bill’s passage, Middleton called the separation of church and state a “false doctrine,” citing the high court’s Kennedy ruling as proof.
“Our schools are not God free zones,” he said in a tweet.
The Kennedy ruling also inspired a bill passed by the Senate that would codify the Supreme Court’s ruling and protect school employees’ ability to engage in religious speech and prayer while on duty.
The matter of displaying the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms came before the high court in 1980, and the justices ruled that a Kentucky law requiring their display violated the first clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
But the makeup of the Supreme Court has become more conservative in recent years, and state lawmakers may sense an opportunity to seize on the court’s rightward shift, especially in the wake of such rulings as last year’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned abortion rights.