Governor Abbott Violates the Religious Freedom of Students and Families Across Texas In Signing Bill Allowing Chaplains to Serve Alongside Counselors

June 19, 2023

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

AUSTIN, Texas – Governor Abbott yesterday signed into law SB 763, which would allow school districts to employ or accept chaplains as volunteers to work with students. 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.

The law will go into effect on September 1.

Texas Freedom Network Executive Director Val Benavidez (she/her) issued the following response​:

“I am floored that our elected officials would so blatantly violate the separation of church and state by putting religious officials in our schools who lack the expertise to provide unbiased, adequate support for all Texas students. This legislation could cause children and families from diverse and LGBTQIA+ communities immeasurable harm, and our kids deserve the support of trained counselors who are there to help them, not purport a religious agenda.

“While lawmakers busied themselves chipping away at our religious freedom and dismantling public education, they wasted their opportunity to fully fund our public schools and allocate resources to provide enough trained counselors for our students. Next time Texans head to the ballot box, we urge them to remember how legislators spent taxpayer money on culture wars instead of helping our kids.”

Last year, 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 according to a study done by the Houston Chronicle.

Under the bill, public and charter schools have six months after the law goes into effect to take a vote on whether or not to adopt a policy authorizing a school to employ or accept a chaplain as a volunteer.