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Bill to display Ten Commandments in Texas classrooms fails in the House

A Ten Commandments slab in front of The Texas Capitol
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A bill requiring the Ten Commandments be posted in Texas classrooms missed a key deadline to advance.

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A bill that would have required Texas public schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms is likely dead after missing a key deadline in the state’s House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1515 did not come up before the midnight deadline for Senate bills to get an initial vote on the House floor. This effectively kills the bill, although there is always the chance the language could be tacked onto another measure before the 88th legislative session ends Monday.

SB 1515 sought to have the Ten Commandments displayed in a “conspicuous place” in elementary and secondary classrooms. It would have required the display to be at least 16 inches wide and 20 inches tall, with a typeface large enough so someone with “average vision” could read it from anywhere in the room.

State Rep. James Talarico has been an outspoken critic of the legislation. The Austin Democrat, who is a member of the Texas House Public Education Committee, voted against the bill when it got a public hearing early this month. His questioning of the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Candy Noble, R-Lucas, went viral on social media at the time.

Noble, for her part, described the Ten Commandments as “foundational to our American education system.”

Talarico touted the bill’s failure to get to the House floor in time as a win for “religious liberty and the separation of church and state.” He added that while the Ten Commandments are important to him as a Christian, the bill is exclusionary.

“For 40 years, the Religious Right has used ‘faith’ to push hateful, exclusionary legislation — like a state-level ban on gay marriage, the most extreme abortion ban in the nation with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and even bills to restrict access to basic contraception,” he said in a statement. “Now, this same movement is trying to force Christian Nationalism onto the children of this state — without their consent or the consent of their parents.”

Texas Republicans succeeded last session to require public schools to display “In God We Trust” posters if they are donated. After opponents of the law sought to donate signs with the national motto in Arabic, that bill’s author, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, said only signs in English could be displayed.

Other Republican-led efforts to infuse Christianity into public education include a bill that would allow schools to hire chaplains or have chaplains serve as volunteers to work with students.

Becky Fogel is the education reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at rfogel@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @beckyfogel.
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