Bible on a school desk in a classroom. | Getty Images
Texas lawmakers have passed a bill that, if enacted, would allow public schools to have chaplains, with the proposed legislation being sent to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 763 last week, in a vote of 89 yeas to 58 nays that largely fell along party lines, with the Senate having approved it earlier.
“A school district or an open-enrollment charter school may employ or accept as a volunteer a chaplain to provide support, services, and programs for students as assigned by the board of trustees of the district or the governing body of the school,” reads the legislation.
“A chaplain employed or volunteering under this chapter is not required to be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification.”
If signed into law, the act would apply for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, with individual school districts expected to vote on whether to allow chaplains into the schools.
“Each board of trustees of a school district and each governing body of an open-enrollment charter school shall take a record vote not later than six months after the effective date of this Act on whether to adopt a policy authorizing a campus of the district or school to employ or accept as a volunteer a chaplain,” continued the bill.
The National School Chaplain Association, which had lobbied in support of the legislation, celebrated the passage of SB 763, calling it “a great win for Texas” in a Facebook post.
Texas Freedom Network is among the critics of the legislation, with its Just Texas Faith Organizer Shan Schaffer releasing a statement last month in opposition to the bill.
“Texas students, who are a diverse community with varied religious views and cultural practices, deserve to enjoy true religious freedom at public schools without being forced to learn according to the religious right’s belief system,” stated Schaffer.
“Finding your own spiritual journey is a deeply personal one that should be guided by a child’s personal connections, not forced upon them by strangers that were not directly given trust by the child or their parent.”