For Immediate Release
Contact: Sarah LaReau, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, DC, April 25, 2023) The American Humanist Association (AHA) strongly condemns two bills passed in the Texas Senate last week aimed at mandating the promotion of Christian doctrine and explicitly encouraging religious activity in public schools. SB 1515 would require that the Ten Commandments be prominently displayed in every public school classroom, and SB 1396 would allow public school districts to require designated time during the school day for prayer and reading the Bible. Both blatantly unconstitutional bills are now headed to the Texas House for consideration.
“It is an understatement to say that a statute which mandates not only the display of specific religious laws but also mandates the exact language that must be used in those displays eviscerates the very concept of separation of church and state,” said AHA Senior Counsel Katie McKerall. “This bill strikes at the very heart of the Establishment Clause and the documented intent of that constitutional safeguard.”
In a rather concerning celebration, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick issued a statement with the following quote: “I believe that you cannot change the culture of the country until you change the culture of mankind. Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.”
Such commentary from a state executive officer confirms the true purpose of these bills is to pervert the concept of religious liberty to specifically promote government-sponsored Christianity to captive children. These legislative actions are an egregious overreach of Christian Nationalism that actively undermines the secular nature of public education and unconstitutionally seeks to indoctrinate religious minority and nonreligious students.
Other supporters make it clear that infringing on the separation of church and state won’t stop with these bills. Rallying for the movement is First Liberty Institute, the powerful conservative law firm behind the landmark Supreme Court case involving public prayer in schools, Kennedy v Bremerton School District. Indicating how emboldened the Christian right has become at pushing the boundaries of theocracy at every level of government, First Liberty attorney and former politician Matt Krause boasts: “The Kennedy case for religious liberty was much like the Dobbs case was for the pro-life movement. It was a fundamental shift.”
Actions like this are a template for the country beyond Texas, and for areas beyond the classroom. AHA Interim Executive Director Nicole Carr said, “The American Humanist Association will continue to do everything we can to protect the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment against the passage of laws like these. We encourage our members and supporters in Texas to urge their elected officials in the House to vote ‘no’ to stop these bills.”
Texas constituents can demand State Representatives vote against SB 1515 through the AHA Action Alert here.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Learn more at www.americanhumanist.org