The Texas legislature is back in a special session called by Governor Greg Abbott (R) and the Senate has wasted no time passing troubling measures. Last week, the Texas Senate approved two bills that threaten religious freedom – a private school voucher bill and an anti-transgender bathroom ban.
The Texas House of Representatives twice recently defeated the state Senate’s attempt to advance private school voucher legislation.
The Senate, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), first approved a voucher program earlier this year, but the House not only refused to take up the measure, it inserted a provision in its budget bill that would block public funds from being spent on private education.
By a 14-0 vote, the Texas State Board of Education agreed on a public school science curriculum that would allow students to learn science without requiring them to challenge the theory of evolution.
The most recent anti-evolution controversy in the state arose when language that stated students are required to “evaluate all sides” of science was placed in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills science standards earlier this year. Critics argued that this was code for sneaking creationism into Texas public school science classes.
The Texas legislature only meets every other year. So, with the last day of session rapidly approaching, the past few days – yes, even including the weekend – have been wild. The result: A lot of harmful policies are closer to becoming law. Here’s a roundup of the legislature’s troubling actions over past couple of days:
A federal appeals court in March ruled a Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led prayers.
Isaiah Smith, a Birdville Independent School District graduate, and the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a lawsuit objecting to the Haltom City-based district’s practice of having students open board meetings with invocations that are predominantly Christian and encouraging the audience to participate.
The AHA said Smith felt “isolated and excluded by the school board’s practice of promoting religion in the public sphere.”
San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Ivy Taylor recently shared some disturbing views – blaming systematic poverty on people’s lack of religiosity.
At an April 3 mayoral candidate forum, Megan Legacy, the director of SA Christian Resource Center, asked Taylor “What do you see as the deepest, systemic causes of generational poverty in San Antonio?”
Texas is one of the more conservative states in the country. Over the years, Lone Star State legislators have cooked up some pretty bad church-state legislation.
Voucher legislation is common in the Texas legislature, but even in this redder than red state, the bills usually fail to gain traction. This year’s session has given us a new twist: the lieutenant governor’s hard push for vouchers prompted the House to pass a proposal to bar the funding of private school vouchers.
Officials in a Texas county said they will not remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from county property.
Americans United, responding to a local complaint, in January sent Nueces County officials a letter informing them that the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, and demanded the Decalogue be removed.
I recently heard some interesting news from my hometown in suburban Pittsburgh: A Ten Commandments monument that was the subject of a federal court battle has been removed from the grounds of a public high school.