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Freedom From Religion Foundation plans to file lawsuit if Ten Commandments bill passes

Andrew Martin

Texas Senate Bill 1515 is headed to the state House for consideration. The bill proposed by Republican Sen. Phil King would require Texas schools to display the Ten Commandments in the classroom.

Ryan Jayne, senior policy counsel for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), explained to TPR's "The Source" on Thursday that the FFRF will file a lawsuit if the bill passes.

“We are planning on suing in the event that this bill is passed and signed into law. We are preparing that lawsuit right now,” he said.

Jayne said that the bill is unconstitutional and a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, which prohibits the state from establishing a religion.

“The bill is not just promoting Christianity to students generally. It’s taking sides on a theological debate within Christianity, and the state cannot do that," he said.

David Donatti, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Texas, said that this is not the only bill from Texas legislation that is attempting to entangle public schools and religious institutions. S.B. 763 would allow chaplains to counsel students instead of licensed social workers or qualified counselors.

“They don't have to have any kind of degree or training to work with our students. They don't have to know anything about what is required to be a healthy student in today’s schools,” he explained.

Another religious bill currently in the legislature is S.B. 1396, which would designate a period of prayer and Bible reading in districts across Texas.

“It would further allow our public schools to be taken over by a very particular religious ideology,” Donatti added.

King said that the Ten Commandments are “part of American heritage.” If his proposed bill is passed, public schools would have to display the commandments in every classroom starting next school year.

Copyright 2023 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Kayla Padilla