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Ten Commandments would be required in public classrooms under bill passed by Texas Senate

The measure, one of several GOP-backed bills focused on religion in schools, now heads to the Republican-led House for consideration.
AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 20: The Texas State Capitol is seen on the first day of the 87th Legislature's third special session on September 20, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Following a second special session that saw the passage of controversial voting and abortion laws, Texas lawmakers have convened at the Capitol for a third special session to address more of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's conservative priorities which include redistricting, the distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds, vaccine mandates and restrictions on how transgender student athletes can compete in sports. (Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)
The Texas state flag flies outside the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 20, 2021.Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images file

The Texas Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would require the prominent display of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms, reigniting a debate over the role of religion in schools and parental rights.

The measure, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Phil King, states that every public elementary or secondary school must "display in a conspicuous place in each classroom of the school a durable poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments" starting in September.

The Senate passed the bill in a 17-12 vote along party lines. It now heads to the GOP-led House.

The Senate this week passed two other Republican-sponsored bills focused on religion in schools.

One measure would allow schools to adopt policies requiring time for students and employees to participate in prayer and Bible reading.

The other, sponsored by state Sen. Tan Parker that garnered broad bipartisan support, would ensure school employees' rights to "engage in religious speech or prayer while on duty."

Parker's bill echoes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling from June that affirmed a former Washington state high school football coach's right to pray on the field right after games.

The bills are the latest in effort in Texas to press for displays of religion in public school classrooms. In 2021, the state enacted a law mandating that schools display “In God We Trust” signs if they are donated or purchased using private donations.

In a statement Thursday night, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, “I will never stop fighting for religious liberty in Texas. 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.”

Opponents, however, said the state should not be involved.

John Litzler, public policy director at the Christian Life Commission and general counsel for the group Texas Baptists, said at a Senate committee hearing this month that it was the responsibility of the church and other religious faiths “to educate children on their religious freedom, not the duty of the state.”

King and Parker didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday evening.

Passage of the three bills comes shortly after the Senate passed legislation known as a Parental Bill of Rights that would allow $8,000 a year for parents to cover the cost of home-schooling or private school tuition if they want to take their children out of public school.