(RNS) — Texas’ Republican-dominated legislature is working its way through a slate of bills aimed at increasing religion’s presence in the state’s public schools, drawing criticism from Democrats, clergy and activists who say the proposals violate the separation of church and state and are emblematic of Christian nationalism.The controversy revolves around three bills: One mandates the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools; another allows school districts to require local campuses to set aside time for staff and students to pray and read religious texts; and a third allows administrators to furnish schools with chaplains in addition to existing counselors.
The state senate passed the first two bills last Thursday (April 20), and the proposal involving chaplains is expected to come up for a vote this week. Lawmakers have yet to vote on companion bills in the Texas House of Representatives.
Leading the charge in the state senate are Sen. Phil King, the lead author on the Ten Commandments bill and co-author on the Scripture-reading proposal, and Sen. Mayes Middleton, who is listed as an author or co-author on all three bills. Both are first-year senators after serving in the Texas House.
In his initial statement of intent accompanying the Ten Commandments bill, King insisted the Bible’s moral code would remind students of the “fundamental foundation o …
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