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Taking the Ten Commandments to school

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A law requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in all classrooms has been passed by the Texas Senate and could be on its way to becoming law. Republican Lt Governor Dan Patrick has said he sees this move as a way to help students become better Texans.

Others see the Ten Commandments requirement as a violation of the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause is a provision in the First Amendment that prohibits the government from establishing or promoting any particular religion. It reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The purpose of the Establishment Clause is to ensure that the government remains neutral with respect to religion, and that it does not favor one religion over another or promote religious beliefs over non-religious beliefs. This means that the government cannot establish an official religion or promote one religion over another, nor can it promote religion over non-religion.

The Establishment Clause has been the subject of numerous court cases over the years, and its interpretation has been the subject of much debate. Some people believe that the Establishment Clause requires a strict separation of church and state, while others believe that it allows for some degree of cooperation between the government and religious institutions, as long as the government does not show favoritism toward any particular religion. Ultimately, the interpretation of the Establishment Clause is up to the courts, which have the responsibility of determining whether specific government actions violate the clause.

Requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in all Texas classrooms is seen by some politicians as a way to promote values and morality in schools. The Ten Commandments make up a set of principles that are central to many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Supporters of this proposal argue that posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms would help instill values such as honesty, respect for authority, and the sanctity of human life.

Opponents argue that posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms would not necessarily promote morality or values. They argue that moral behavior should be taught through a comprehensive education that includes critical thinking, ethics, and empathy, rather than through a religious text.

Requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms would likely be seen as an endorsement of a specific religious text, which is a violation of the principle of government neutrality with regard to religion. While the Ten Commandments are an important religious text in several faiths, they are not a universal set of principles that are accepted by all people. Requiring their posting in public schools could be seen as an attempt to impose religious beliefs on students who may not share those beliefs.

It's important to note that public schools are meant to be inclusive spaces where all students, regardless of their religious beliefs, can feel welcome and respected. Requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms could make students of certain faiths feel excluded or marginalized, which would be contrary to the principles of equal treatment and respect for all individuals.


Ryan Jayne is the Senior Policy Counsel for the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

David Donatti is a staff attorney for American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Texas.

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*This interview will be recorded on Thursday, April 27.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi