‘Christian Nationalism?’ Texas Legislation Would Require Ten Commandments Be Posted in Schools
Critics are calling a Texas bill that would require the Ten Commandments to be posted in public school classrooms an example of “Christian nationalism.” But the bill’s sponsors say the legislation is needed to help remind students of America’s biblical foundations.
In April, S.B. 1515 passed the Texas Senate with a vote of 17-12; the bill is now headed to the state’s House of Representatives.
“[The bill] will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America,” Texas State Senator Phil King (R), the bill’s sponsor, said during an April committee hearing.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) expressed further support of the legislation along with another bill requiring there be allotted time for students and employees to pray and read the Bible if they choose. “Allowing the Ten Commandments and prayer back into our public schools is one step we can take to make sure that all Texans have the right to freely express their sincerely held religious beliefs,” he said in a statement, adding that the bills “will enable our students to become better Texans.”
King went on to assert that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to uphold Coach Joe Kennedy’s right to pray on the field after high school football games in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District signaled that it would also uphold S.B. 1515 if it became law. This outcome remains uncertain in light of a previous Supreme Court ruling in Stone v. Graham (1980), which held that a Kentucky statute requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms was unconstitutional due to it violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Critics such as Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman say that the Texas legislation amounts to a “new frontier of Christian nationalism,” claiming that the so-called philosophy “rejects our legal and cultural tradition of religious pluralism.”
But as mass shootings, suicides, and mental health issues continue to mount in the U.S., observers fear that a lack of clearly defined principles to live by in the public square will only lead to further societal chaos.
“What we are seeing culturally is a predictable result of a secularizing culture,” Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm told The Washington Stand. “Government schools, claiming to be neutral, are teaching children to understand the world without consideration of the one who created the world. This predictably leads to growing depression and suicide because there is nowhere to turn when we lose control. It also leads to increasingly lawlessness, because there is no one to be accountable to.”
Still, Backholm, who serves as FRC’s senior fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement, expressed reservations about the legal ramifications of mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools.
“As a legal matter, if a state allows the Ten Commandments, they would be obligated to allow other religious displays and messages I might not want my kids exposed to,” he observed. The rise of “After School Satan Clubs” indeed has some experts worried about what kinds of beliefs could make their way into schools once a legal foothold is achieved.
“That’s why this situation also shows the necessity of universal school choice,” Backholm continued. “No parent should be forced by government to have their child indoctrinated in a worldview they do not share. By giving parents control over where their child is educated, parents have control over how their child is educated — and no one has to fight over the Ten Commandments in school. The only reason this is even controversial is because people are stuck in public schools, so people who have no shared values are fighting over space the government mandates we share. It’s a recipe for conflict, so we are seeing conflict.”
“So yes, we need reminders that we are accountable and we are not alone, but government should not be the source of our theology,” Backholm concluded.
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.