Details, from Vox:
This month, Texas Senate Republicans passed three bills about religion in schools that have historians feeling déjà vu.
The first, SB 1515, would require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in a “conspicuous place” in classrooms. The other bill, SB 1396, would permit public schools to set aside time for students and staff members to pray or read the Bible and other religious texts. The third, SB 1556, would give employees the right to pray or “engage in religious speech” while on the job. The bills are on their way to the Texas House for approval. These bills follow Texas’s SB 797, which took effect in 2021 and requires schools to display “In God We Trust” signs.
The school culture wars have been burning hot in the past three years. Parents and school boards have fought over critical race theory, social-emotional learning, African American studies, the books on library shelves, and more. But unlike past controversies about what is taught in schools, these fights have not been explicitly religious. The Texas bills are, in that sense, throwbacks — and some historians are shocked by the reemergence of a culture war that reached its peak decades ago.
“I had believed that these religion wars had mostly cooled and even gone away,” said Jonathan Zimmerman, historian of education at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books including, Whose America?: Culture Wars in the Public Schools. “But it’s different now because we’re battling over nation and nationhood, and who’s an American, not battling over God and prayer.”
But in 2022, the Supreme Court decided in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District that a football coach’s prayer at football games constituted protected speech. The bill’s authors and conservative supporters said the court’s ruling represents a “fundamental shift” for religious liberty much in the way that “the Dobbs case was for the pro-life movement.”
The lawmakers see a signal that they can rethink the separation of church and state, the long-standing idea embedded in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”