by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read
First Liberty’s landmark Supreme Court victory in our Coach Joe Kennedy case is having a major impact in Texas. The state Senate recently passed several bills to protect religious freedom in public schools. The bills will now head to the House for consideration.
First is Texas SB 1515, which states that elementary and secondary schools “shall display in a conspicuous place in each classroom of the school a durable poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments.” First Liberty recently testified before the Senate Committee on Education supporting the bill. We were joined by our friends and American historians David and Tim Barton of WallBuilders. Their organization is dedicated to preserving our country’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious and constitutional foundation on which America was built.
Sen. Phil King, sponsor of the legislation, argued the proposal is legally feasible because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which the Court overturned a bad Establishment Clause precedent known as the Lemon test. The precedent set by Kennedy, he said, “instead provided a test of whether a governmental display of religious content comports with America’s history and tradition.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick expressed his support for the bill:
“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. 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.”
The Texas Senate also passed SB 1396, which would allow public and charter schools to adopt a policy requiring every campus to set aside a time for students and employees to pray, if they so desire, as well as to read the Bible or other religious texts.
SB 1556 also passed. As The Washington Post explains, “this proposal would codify the Supreme Court’s ruling on Kennedy into law and protect the right of school employees to engage in religious speech or prayer while on duty.”
For decades, public school districts often misunderstood their obligations under the First Amendment. Many school board officials thought religious expression was forbidden on government property. Like Coach Kennedy, government told countless teachers, coaches and administrators to keep their faith hidden for many years. Many were punished or forced to choose between their job and their faith. Even students were censored from expressing their religious views.
While government cannot and should not coerce any citizen toward religion, it also cannot and should not inhibit religious freedom and expression. And after our landmark Supreme Court victories in recent years, a seismic shift is happening in America regarding religious expression.
The Texas bills are evidence of our Supreme Court wins bearing fruit. But the Lone Star State is not the only one. We’re witnessing incredible momentum for religious freedom across the country. We recently reported on a wave of proposed legislation in multiple states moving to protect religious liberty.
God is at work. There’s no denying it. The Supreme Court victories He orchestrated are opening new doors to bring back our nation’s heritage of religious expression and restore the freedoms that were stripped away. After decades of hostility, every American now has the legal foundation to go forth and place religious freedom back where it rightfully and legally belongs. We are just at the beginning of a great movement.