The Texas Senate passed a bill Thursday requiring each public school classroom to display a copy of the Ten Commandments, a move that drew backlash from civil liberty advocates who say lawmakers should not dictate what religious materials students are exposed to.
The legislation, which passed the state Senate on a 17-12 vote, will now head to the state’s House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 1515, authored by state Sen. Phil King, a Republican, requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in a “conspicuous place” in each classroom in a “size and typeface that is legible to a person with average vision from anywhere in the classroom.”
King has previously said the bill will help restore religious liberties “that were lost” and it “reminds students all across Texas of the importance of a fundamental foundation” of America.
“This Act applies beginning with the 2023-2024 school year,” the bill reads. “This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house … If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2023.”
Also Thursday, the Senate passed another bill relating to religion, one which would require schools to allow time for students and employees to pray and read the Bible on each school day. Senate Bill 1396 also passed with a 17-12 vote.
Following the passage of the two bills, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement “allowing the Ten Commandments and prayer back into our public schools is one step we can take to make sure that all Texas have the right to freely express their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans,” he added.
“Parents should be able to decide what religious materials their child should learn, not the (Texas legislature),” the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said in a statement.
“Yet, some Texas lawmakers want to do exactly that – by forcing public schools to display the Ten Commandments or set aside Bible reading times.”
A new Texas state law last year required school districts in the state to display posters of the “In God We Trust” motto, as long as the copies were donated or purchased from private donations, CNN previously reported.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican co-author of the law, said at the time the phrase asserted “our collective trust in a sovereign God.”