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Texas Republicans are trying to bring religion into public schools

AUSTIN, TX — Cantor Sheri Allen has worked in synagogues for over a decade and recently opened a synagogue in Fort Worth.

“We have only been around since November. We meet once a month at our local church for Sabbath services. Makom Cheranu Congregation.

Allen is a pastor, but does not support the ongoing legislation in the Texas Senate. School districts may bring in pastors as volunteers or paid employees to do the work of counselors.

What you need to know

  • Bill Underway in Texas Senate Allows School Districts to Bring in Chaplains as Volunteer or Paid Employees to Do Counseling Work
  • When pastors are paid, their salaries are derived from funds intended for school safety
  • The bill’s author, Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), said the bill actually falls under the free exercise clause that is part of the First Amendment.
  • This clause protects your right to practice your religion as you please

“First of all, chaplains are not trained to advise children on anything other than their spiritual needs,” Allen said. “There is no place for that in school.”

Allen believes the bill is in violation Establishment Article, part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Commonly referred to as the “separation of church and state” clause, the clause prohibits the government from supporting any particular religion.

Allen is concerned that Texas legislators are promoting Christianity.

“I feel like there’s a movement to bring Christian values, Christian liturgy, and Christian ideas into the public sphere,” Allen said. “School is hard enough for kids trying to find out who they are.”

But the bill’s creator, Senator Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, said the bill was actually A free exercise clause that is also part of the First Amendment. This clause protects your right to practice your religion as you please.

“This is not a charter matter,” said Senator Middleton. “This is… he’s just one in the toolbox for our public schools to meet the needs of their students.”

When pastors are paid, their salaries are derived from funds intended for school safety. Senator Middleton argues that having a pastor on campus improves the mental health of students and teachers and makes schools safer.

Pastors do not need to be certified. They can also be hired in place of school counselors if the school district chooses to spend the money that way.

The bill is part of a larger push by Texas Republicans to increase the presence of religion in Texas public schools. Critics like Allen, however, have expressed concern about violating the separation of church and state. Another law requires the Ten Commandments to be posted in classrooms. Although such a display exists on the Capitol grounds, this is the first time the text has been shown in a school. A third bill allows periods during class for prayer and Bible or religious text reading.

As the school chaplain bill was debated on the Senate floor on Monday, Democratic Senators Nathan Johnson of Dallas, Jose Menendez of San Antonio and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen raised a variety of concerns.

“What are the odds of a particular campus hiring a Muslim pastor instead of a Christian pastor?” Senator Johnson asked Senator Middleton.

Senator Middleton said it was up to school districts to decide which pastors to hire.

“We’re just allowing school districts to opt in to this program relentlessly,” he said.

“As a practical matter, I don’t think we’re likely to see any near parity in terms of what religion a pastor on a school campus represents,” said Senator Johnson. I don’t think you’ll ever see a religious or Jewish rabbi, pastors do a lot in hospitals, they do a lot in the correctional system, those systems aren’t the same as our school systems. I don’t think so … I am still very concerned that we continue to break down the wall of separation that the framers of our Constitution claimed to be between church and state, so respectfully. I will object to the invoice.”

A majority of pastors are Christian, Sen. Middleton admitted Monday.

“As you mentioned the separation of church and state, it is not real doctrine. It was in a letter from Jefferson to the Baptists of Danbury. It is not real doctrine,” argued Senator Middleton. “What this does is free movement [of religion], and I assume you’re referring to the establishment clause there. ”

“It’s a pretty real doctrine for some of us, but probably not for everyone,” Senator Johnson countered.

In an interview with Spectrum News, Senator Middleton noted that lawmakers have daily prayers in their respective rooms and work under the slogan “In God We Trust.”

“On the floor of the Senate, on the floor of the House of Representatives, above all, it says, ‘We believe in God,'” said Senator Middleton. “So our school is not a godless zone. It’s important, so this building is an example of why religious freedom is so important.”

Senator Middleton believes the bill has a solid legal foundation. The Supreme Court upheld a public school football coach who prayed on the field after the game.

“[This] We will expand religious freedom and remove from the bench much of the legislation our courts have for years restricted the free exercise clause in our Constitution,” said Senator Middleton.

But Michael S. Ariens, a law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, said the legislation being pushed by Texas lawmakers The so-called Kennedy incident.

“The court ruled that because his prayers were as a private person and not as a coach, it was against the rules, in the sense that he had to do something related to his coaching activities, because he did not keep the clock. “The sponsors of these bills said they read the Kennedy case very broadly.” I don’t think they say what they want, and I don’t think any of the three proposed bills have anything to do with what we broadly call “religious freedom.” In some cases, I think we can immediately raise an objection on constitutional grounds.”

As for Allen, she sees non-Christian students—those who believe in another religion or not at all—put up framed Ten Commandments posters on their classroom walls, pray and I continue to be concerned that the time set aside for reading texts may be offensive. Even the presence of a school pastor.

“This should be a country open to all faiths, all religions, and the ability to express them, but not in public schools, which means the constitution is pretty clear about that,” Allen said. said.

Disagreements about the separation of church and state in schools are likely to move from the classroom to the courtroom.

Follow Charlotte Scott Facebook and twitter.

http://www.spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/austin/politics/2023/04/26/texas-republicans-advance-bills-to-bring-religion-into-public-schools Texas Republicans are trying to bring religion into public schools

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