(The Hill) — Texas lawmakers have passed a bill that will allow unlicensed chaplains into schools to serve in school counseling positions.
The law, passed in a 84-60 vote in the state House Wednesday, will allow school districts to decide whether they want a chaplain who isn’t certified by the state working alongside counselors and mental health services in their schools.
The legislation already passed the Texas Senate and now will go to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is likely to sign it into law.
The bill allows schools to use a volunteer or employ chaplains “to provide support, services, and programs for students as assigned by the board of trustees of the district or the governing body of the school.”
A school district can use funds allocated for school safety and security to support chaplains in their role, the same funds used for other counselors.
Schools now have six months to vote on policies to either deny or allow chaplains into their schools. The act takes effect for the 2023-2024 school year.
The passage marks the latest battle in Texas over religion in school, with a bill requiring the Ten Commandments to be hung in public school classrooms failing on Tuesday.
“The same Texas politicians trying to control what students think — by banning books and censoring curricula — now want to dictate what students worship,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas tweeted.
“Enjoying the freedom to decide whether and how to be religious is a core part of what makes us Texan. #SB763 must be stopped,” they added.
The debate over the bill in the Texas House got heated before its final approval, with state Rep. Cole Hefner (R) defending his legislation.
“I think it’s preposterous that members in here would defend the acts of certain inappropriate drag shows in our schools and inappropriate materials in our libraries and then have the audacity to say [chaplains in schools] are a problem,” Hefner said.
If signed into law, it is likely to come under a barrage of legal issues. Supporters are feeling confident, however, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a football coach praying with his players on the field last year.