Texas lawmakers pass bill allowing public schools to employ chaplains who have no state certification
By Raja Razek, CNN
(CNN) — Lawmakers in Texas’ Republican-controlled House passed a bill Wednesday that would allow public schools to employ or accept volunteer chaplains who are not state certified.
Senate Bill 763, which passed 84-60, reads, “A school district or open-enrollment charter school may employ or accept as a volunteer a chaplain 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 chaplain employed or volunteering under this chapter is not required to be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification,” it added.
Funds allocated to improve security and safety would include use for chaplains, social workers, licensed counselors and behavioral health services, according to the bill, which was amended before being approved in identical form by both legislative bodies this week.
Some of the services provided by the chaplains would include suicide prevention programs, mental health support and behavioral health services.
The bill will now head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
ACLU of Texas attorney David Donatti criticized the bill in a statement. “The same Texas politicians trying to control what students think by banning books and censoring curricula now want to dictate what students worship,” Donatti said.
“This bill is part of a coordinated campaign by conservative Christian-based organizations and their legislative champions to force state-sponsored religion into public schools without parental consent. Replacing well-educated and licensed professionals with uncertified chaplains threatens the safety and education of Texas students. The First Amendment guarantees families and faith communities the right to instill religious beliefs in their children, not politicians or the government.”
CNN has reached out to the bill’s author, state Sen. Mayes Middleton, a Republican from Galveston, for comment.
The bill’s passage comes days after the Texas House, in which Republicans have an 86-64 majority, failed to advance a bill that would have required public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom.
The bill effectively died early Wednesday morning after House lawmakers did not meet a midnight deadline for a vote that would have advanced the bill for a third and final passage. The Senate passed the bill in April.
Texas’ legislative session ends on May 29.
These aren’t the only measures in Texas relating to religion and school. Senate Bill 1396, which would require schools to allow time for students and employees to pray and read the Bible on each school day, was also passed by the Senate last month.