Texas Republican vows to pass bill on Ten Commandments in public schools

<span>Dan Patrick speaks at CPAC in Dallas, Texas, on 9 July 2021.</span><span>Photograph: Brandon Bell/Getty Images</span>
Dan Patrick speaks at CPAC in Dallas, Texas, on 9 July 2021.Photograph: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A leading Texas Republican has pledged to emulate Louisiana by passing a bill that would force public schools to display the Ten Commandments.

Dan Patrick, Texas’s lieutenant governor, said on Friday he would pass Bill 1515 mandating the biblical stricture in all classrooms, in the next session of the state senate, the upper legislative chamber over which he presides.

“SB 1515 will bring back this historical tradition of recognizing America’s heritage, and remind students all across Texas of the importance of a fundamental foundation of American and Texas law: the Ten Commandments,” he posted on X.

“I will pass the 10 Commandments Bill again out of the Senate next session.”

The vow came two days after Louisiana’s hard-right governor, Jeff Landry, signed a similar bill that made his state the first in the US to declare displaying the Ten Commandments statutory.

Patrick’s move will intensify liberal fears that conservative politicians – particularly in the southern “Bible belt” states – are intent on overturning America’s traditional secular order of separation of church and state as guaranteed in the US constitution.

Four civil liberties groups – including the American Council for Civil Liberties (ACLU) and the Freedom from Religions Foundation – have already announced they are suing Louisiana over its new law, insisting that it is “blatantly unconstitutional”.

The Louisiana statute won the enthusiastic backing of Donald Trump, the former president and presumptive Republican 2024 nominee, who has aggressively courted Christian conservative voters.

“I LOVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, AND MANY OTHER PLACES, FOR THAT MATTER,” Trump wrote in his Truth Social platform, using block capitals in a post that could embolden other Republican-led states to follow suit with similar legislation.

“HOW CAN WE, AS A NATION, GO WRONG??? THIS MAY BE, IN FACT, THE FIRST MAJOR STEP IN THE REVIVAL OF RELIGION, WHICH IS DESPERATELY NEEDED, IN OUR COUNTRY.”

Comparable bills have already been proposed in Oklahoma and Utah but have not been enacted amid threats that they would trigger legal challenges.

It is unclear if Patrick has sufficient support to pass the Texas bill into law. Posting on X, he criticised his fellow Republican Dade Phelan, the speaker of the state’s lower chamber, for failing to pass the legislation in the last session.

“Texas WOULD have been and SHOULD have been the first state in the nation to put the 10 Commandments back in our schools,” he wrote. “Last session the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 1515, by Sen. Phil King on April 20th and sent it over to the House, to do what Louisiana just did.

“Every Texas Republican House member would have voted for it. But, SPEAKER Dade Phelan killed the bill by letting it languish in committee for a month assuring it would never have time for a vote on the floor. This was inexcusable and unacceptable.”

The Texas legislature, which sits for about five months every odd-numbered year, is not due to hold a regular session until next January, although the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has the powers to call a special session earlier.

In a separate post, Patrick appeared to hold out little hope of an early passage of the bill while Phelan – with whom he has quarrelled – remains in post.

“Conservative faith-based bills DON’T HAVE A PRAYER UNDER SPEAKER DADE PHELAN,” he posted.

“Besides Dade Phelan killing the Ten Commandments bill last session, [he] also killed Senate Bill 1396 by Sen. Middleton, which would have allowed school boards to vote to put prayer back in public schools.”

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