The Texas legislature only meets every other year. So, with the last day of session rapidly approaching, the past few days – yes, even including the weekend – have been wild. The result: A lot of harmful policies are closer to becoming law. Here’s a roundup of the legislature’s troubling actions over past couple of days:
A federal appeals court in March ruled a Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led prayers.
Isaiah Smith, a Birdville Independent School District graduate, and the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a lawsuit objecting to the Haltom City-based district’s practice of having students open board meetings with invocations that are predominantly Christian and encouraging the audience to participate.
The AHA said Smith felt “isolated and excluded by the school board’s practice of promoting religion in the public sphere.”
San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Ivy Taylor recently shared some disturbing views – blaming systematic poverty on people’s lack of religiosity.
At an April 3 mayoral candidate forum, Megan Legacy, the director of SA Christian Resource Center, asked Taylor “What do you see as the deepest, systemic causes of generational poverty in San Antonio?”
Texas is one of the more conservative states in the country. Over the years, Lone Star State legislators have cooked up some pretty bad church-state legislation.
Voucher legislation is common in the Texas legislature, but even in this redder than red state, the bills usually fail to gain traction. This year’s session has given us a new twist: the lieutenant governor’s hard push for vouchers prompted the House to pass a proposal to bar the funding of private school vouchers.
Officials in a Texas county said they will not remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from county property.
Americans United, responding to a local complaint, in January sent Nueces County officials a letter informing them that the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, and demanded the Decalogue be removed.
I recently heard some interesting news from my hometown in suburban Pittsburgh: A Ten Commandments monument that was the subject of a federal court battle has been removed from the grounds of a public high school.
Despite North Carolina’s suffering major economic consequences for enacting an anti-transgender “bathroom bill,” officials in Texas want to go down a similar route. In a newly-filed bill, state officials seek to ban transgender people from using public bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) filed the bill, officially named the Texas Privacy Act, on Jan. 5. It would require people to use public bathrooms that align with their sex at birth, which would target the transgender community. The law would not be applicable to private businesses.
Most state legislative sessions are just starting up, yet we have already seen legislators introduce 13 bills in nine states that would prohibit the “application of foreign laws” in state courts. Now, on the surface, that might not sound like a church-state issue, but that’s by design. The troubling fact is that these bills are driven by anti-Muslim animus and the spurious fear that Sharia law is infiltrating our legal system.
Officials in Kerr County, Texas, permitted the display of a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn to acknowledge Christmas during the holiday season, but were unwilling to extend the same right to a local group of non-believers.
The Kerr County Commissioners voted 4-1 in November to deny a request from Kerrville Freethought to erect a banner celebrating Winter Solstice and the Bill of Rights.