A bill allowing chaplains in schools passed the Texas Legislature Tuesday evening after the state’s House of Representatives voted largely along party lines, according to Religion News Service.
House Bill 3614 was introduced by Republican state Rep. Cole Hefner in March and if signed into law would allow schools to “employ or accept as volunteers chaplains,” according to the text of the bill. The bill passed the state Senate earlier this month before passing the state House after a 89-58 vote, according to Religion News Service.
If signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, the bill will go into effect on Sept. 1 for the 2023-2024 school year, according to the bill’s text, and would give chaplains the ability to act as a mental health resource, aiding in suicide prevention and restorative justice practices, according to the bill’s text. It would also allow chaplains to work with schools without obtaining certification from the State Board of Education.
The bill is part of a larger campaign by the National School Chaplain Association, which aims to place more chaplains in schools to help work with students and teachers on issues such as depression, suicidality, and “spiritual care,” according to the organization’s website.
Some Democratic state legislators expressed concerns that the bills would “lead to Christian nationalists infiltrating our public schools” and tried to amend the bill to ban chaplains from proselytizing and obtain parental consent before speaking with a student, but the measures failed, according to the Religion News Service.
Rocky Malloy, chief executive officer of the National School Chaplain Association, testified on behalf of the bill, arguing it would make schools a safer place and dispelled the argument that chaplains in schools would be a violation of church and state, according to Religion News Service.
“Chaplains operate within an individual’s belief and convictions—they are not working to convert people to religion,” Malloy said.
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