Religious Minorities

Lone Star victory: Texas Ten Commandments bill fails to pass

  Rob Boston

Here’s some rare good news from Texas: A bill that would have required the posting of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom failed to pass before a crucial deadline passed last night.

The bill would have mandated that school officials post the Ten Commandments as listed in the King James Version of the Bible “in a conspicuous place in each classroom.” It even specified that the posters had to use “a size and typeface that is legible to a person with average vision from anywhere in the classroom.”

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Phil King (R-Weatherford), relied on Christian Nationalist talking points, remarking, “I think this would be a good, healthy step for Texas to bring back this tradition of recognizing America’s religious heritage.”

Measure talked to death

In the end, the measure faltered not on a vote but through a procedural maneuver. It had passed the state Senate with the strong backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), but in the Texas House of Representatives, Democrats, who are in a minority, essentially talked the bill to death.

The New York Times reported that Democrats “delayed the proceedings by speaking at length and repeatedly at every opportunity for much of the day, a process known in the Texas Capitol as “chubbing.”

Yesterday was the final day to approve bills before the end of the session on Monday, meaning the legislative clock ran out before the bill could come up for a vote.

A special session?

While the news is welcome, we’re not out of the woods yet. The Texas legislature is part time and meets every two years, but Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has the power to force the legislature back into session at pretty much any time, meaning this issue could resurface. Abbott has already threatened to call a special session if the legislature fails to pass an expansive private school voucher plan before Monday.

In addition, versions of a separate bill that allows school districts to use religious chaplains instead of trained school counselors passed both chambers and, if the House and Senate agree on a final version before Monday, it will go to Abbott for a signature.

For now, though, AU is celebrating the development on the Ten Commandments bill – and warning that attempts to force religion into public schools have surfaced in other states.

“Forcing public schools to display the Ten Commandments is part of the Christian Nationalist crusade to compel all of us to live by their beliefs,” Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, told The Times.

The Texas development is a setback for Christian Nationalists, but they’ll be back. AU will stay on its toes. You should, too.

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