(RNS) — The Texas Legislature has raised eyebrows and hackles in recent weeks as lawmakers advanced a trio of religion-related education bills championed by conservative Christian activists and lambasted by liberal critics as evidence of Christian nationalism.The bills include one that would allow public schools to hire chaplains, another that would mandate Texas classrooms to hang a donated version of the Ten Commandments and a third that would allow schools to set aside time for staff or students to pray or read religious texts.
One prominent critic of at least two of those bills, Democratic Texas state Rep. James Talarico, is a Presbyterian seminarian, and his public, faith-infused back-and-forth with another lawmaker over the Ten Commandments bill caught fire on social media last week.
Talarico took a moment on Tuesday (May 9) to speak to Religion News Service from the floor of the Texas House of Representatives as he prepared for a vote on the chaplains bill. A few minutes after the interview concluded, he stood before the House and gave another impassioned, religion-filled speech criticizing his Republican colleagues — this time for failing to pass gun control legislation.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
You’ve mentioned your Christian faith a lot in recent debates over legislation in Texas. Can you say a little bit about your religious background?
Texas state Rep. James Talarico. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia/Creative Commons
I’m the grandson of a Baptist preacher from South Texas. I was born and raised in the Presbyterian Church, baptized when I was 4 years old, and I have taught Vacation Bible School. I am now a seminary student myself.
Faith is t …
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