The separation of church and state isn’t doing too great in Texas right now.
Republican senators passed a bill Thursday that would require all public schools to display a nearly two-foot-tall copy of the Ten Commandments in every classroom. Each poster must be printed “in a size and typeface that is legible to a person with average vision from anywhere in the classroom” and displayed in a “conspicuous place.” The bill’s sponsor had previously cited Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Supreme Court case that said a football coach at a public high school in Washington state could pray at games, as paving the way for this legislation.
The Senate also passed a bill that would let public school districts and charter schools implement a policy that requires every campus to set aside time every day for students and employees to pray and read the Bible “or other religious texts.” While the bill does not restrict the prayer or texts to Christianity, it’s safe to say that reading, for instance, the Quran is not what lawmakers had in mind.
Both bills now go to the House of Representatives. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick hailed the legislation as “one step we can take to make sure that all Texans have the right to freely express their sincerely held religious beliefs.” This would be the same man who, in 2007, while serving as a senator, boycotted the first prayer delivered in the chamber by a Muslim cleric.
Texas has been increasingly regulating what can and cannot be taught in state public schools—or even who can attend. Republicans introduced a bill in March that would ban students from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from all public colleges and universities. The measure, widely decried as racist and xenophobic, has yet to make it out of committee.
State Republicans also want to ban public school libraries from having books that feature same-sex couples and transgender characters. And in March, the Texas Education Agency announced it would forcibly remove the Houston Independent School District’s elected board and seize control of the district, which is the largest in the state.
All of this is part of a wider movement among Republicans to clamp down on freedom of thought and expression. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in particular, seem to be in a twisted game of one-upmanship to see who can impose the most restrictive policies on their constituents.