Texas far-right Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is lauding two just-passed state Senate bills which mandate the Ten Commandments be prominently displayed in every public school classroom and that public schools be allowed to create times specifically devoted so people can pray or read the Bible or other religious works.
In theory, both bills could be challenged by civil rights attorneys as unconstitutional, and Patrick’s praise of the legislation might make any case against them stronger.
“I believe that you cannot change the culture of the country until you change the culture of mankind,” Patrick said in a statement, The Texas Tribune reports. “Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.”
Patrick, who has control over what legislation is voted on in the Texas legislature, appears to be revealing his intent to put prayer back into public school classrooms, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 1962.
“The state cannot hold prayers in public schools, even if participation is not required and the prayer is not tied to a particular religion,” the legal website Oyez explains.
Republican State Sen. Phil King “said during a committee hearing earlier this month that the Ten Commandments are part of American heritage and it’s time to bring them back into the classroom. He said the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for his bill after it sided with Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for praying at football games. The court ruled that was praying as a private citizen, not as an employee of the district,” the Tribune reports.
But just as with prayer in schools, the Supreme Court decades ago also ruled that putting the Ten Commandments in public schools is unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, when the Texas bill was before the state Senate’s Education Committee, we reported that in 1980. the U.S. Supreme Court in Stone v. Graham ruled 5-4 that a Kentucky state law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That law, as Oyez notes, “required the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments in each public school classroom,” just as the proposed Texas bill, SB 1515, does.
The Ten Commandments bill is opposed by John Litzler, general counsel and director of public policy at the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, who “said at the committee hearing that the organization has concerns about taxpayer money being used to buy religious texts and that parents, not schools, should be having conversations about religion with their children.”
“I should have the right to introduce my daughter to the concepts of adultery and coveting someone’s spouse,” Litzler said. “It shouldn’t be one of the first things she learns to read in her kindergarten classroom.”
Reprinted with permission from Alternet.