Texas Legislature’s Passage of Chaplain Bill Violates Religious Freedom of Students and Families, Texas Freedom Network Denounces

May 24, 2023

CONTACT: Emily Witt (she/hers), [email protected]

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Legislature today passed SB 763, which would allow school districts to employ chaplains and appoint them to volunteer positions. Chaplains would be compensated using funds earmarked for school safety.

Chaplains employed or appointed to volunteer roles are not required to be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification or be endorsed by any major entity, like the Department of Defense.

Gov. Abbott has until June 18 to veto or sign the bill into law.

Texas Freedom Network Senior Political Director Carisa Lopez (she/hers) issued the following response​:

“This bill violates the religious freedom of all faiths and Texans of non-faith by placing chaplains in our schools who are not required to be certified educators or omit their personal religious beliefs when working with students. Chaplains, unlike counselors, are not given the professional training required to care for the mental health of all students, and we cannot be reasonably certain that every chaplain hired or allowed to volunteer would give unbiased and adequate support to an LGBTQIA+ student, someone grappling with reproductive health decisions, or a student who may struggle with suicidal ideation or self-harm.

“I find it egregious — especially on the one-year anniversary of the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde — that lawmakers would pass a bill allowing chaplains to be compensated with funding meant to address school safety. Yet again, our elected officials have squandered their opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that would keep kids safe, like common sense gun reform or bills addressing the school counselor and teacher shortage. We will never stop fighting the religious right’s agenda to inject their personal beliefs into our schools, and we urge Texans to hold these lawmakers accountable at the ballot box.”

A Houston Chronicle study done last year found that all but four of the 1,200 public school and open-enrollment charter districts in Texas failed to meet the Texas Education Agency’s recommendation of one counselor per 250 students.