The Texas legislature is really pushing the envelope of Christian nationalism this year

ten commandments
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They do everything big in Texas. Especially Christian nationalism.

The Texas state legislature, where Republicans are a majority, has been at the forefront of pushing a series of extreme measures this session meant to use schools to indoctrinate kids in right-wing Christianity.

So far, the legislature has advanced a bill that would require schools to post the Ten Commandments in every public classroom. There are plenty of others. One bill would require a period of “a period of prayer and Bible reading on each school day.” Still another would allow schools to replace counselors with unlicensed “chaplains.” Yet another bill would give school staff permission to “engage in religious speech or prayer while on duty,” presumably in front of students.

The bills’ backers don’t shy away from making their motives clear. State Sen. Phil King (R), who is a lead on the Ten Commandments bill, says that the bill is necessary because the Ten Commandments are the “fundamental foundation of American and Texas law.”

That kind of thinking is a key tenet of Christian nationalism, which holds that the nation’s founders were deeply pious and divinely inspired. One of the chief proponents of this belief, David Barton, is perhaps the foremost purveyor of the lie that the founders never intended for there to be a separation of church and state.

As it turns out, Barton was the vice chair of the Texas Republican Party from 1997 to 2006. During hearings about this year’s crop of bills, legislators repeatedly praised him. King had Barton testify on behalf of the Ten Commandments bill, calling Barton an “esteemed” witness.

The reason that Texas legislators are pushing the envelope even more than usual is because they think the Supreme Court has given them the green light to do so. Last year, the Court ruled 6-3 in favor of a public school football coach who had been fired for praying at the 50-yard game during games. Even though some players felt pressured to go along with the prayer, the conservative majority didn’t see the coach’s actions as a violation of the separation of church and state. Instead, they saw it as protecting the coach’s religious rights.

The Texas bills are on top of all other anti-LGBTQ+ efforts being pushed by state Republicans. The state senate is advancing its own version of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law in the state legislature. Another bill would jeopardize access to health care for trans Texans, regardless of age. Yet another would restrict what college sports teams trans athletes could join. And of course there’s a bill that would prohibit children from attending any drag performance.

Sounding the alarm has been another state legislator, Rep. James Talarico. Talarico isn’t objecting just as a Democrat. He’s also a Presbyterian seminarian who has challenged Republicans from the perspective of a person of faith.

“I see this as part of a troubling trend across the country of Christian nationalists attempting to take over our democracy and attempting to take over my religion — both of which I find deeply offensive,” Talarico said in an interview with Religious News Service. “This is the culmination of 40 years of the religious right taking over our political system, and I think my fellow Christians and I have a moral obligation to speak out against this growing Christo-fascist movement.”

Talarico has no qualms about calling out Republicans for their bullying tactics.

“To use political power to hurt marginalized people — whether it’s folks from other faith traditions like Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims, or whether it’s to hurt LGBTQ people, or women seeking reproductive health care — (is) blasphemous, according to my reading of the New Testament,” he says.

Unfortunately, Republicans can blaspheme all they want, as they are in the majority. Fortunately, many of the bills in the legislature are likely to die – at least this time. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be back in the next session.

The right won’t stop until the state resembles the Christian national utopia where LGBTQ+ people are persecuted and the only thing more prolific than guns are thoughts and prayers after mass shootings.

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