State Rep. Dan Flynn of Van wants to make sure that any Texas teacher who wants to display the Ten Commandments in his or her classroom may do so.
That’s why he filed House Bill 307 that says school officials — particularly school board trustees — cannot prevent copies of those commandments from being posted “in a prominent location” in classrooms.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Flynn. “If a teacher wants to put it in her classroom, she should be able to do it just as if she wanted to put up Halloween, Thanksgiving or any other decorations.
“I think it’s a good list of disciplines that young people would find very meaningful to them.”
Public displays of the Ten Commandments have sparked legal battles in the past.
And this one likely will too, if Texas lawmakers approve it during the upcoming legislative session that begins Jan. 8.
“It’s unconstitutional,” said Bob Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at the George Washington University Law School. “The government is limited in its ability to display religious messages.
“You couldn’t have a banner hanging across the entrance to City Hall that says ‘Jesus saves.’ That would be the government invoking religion,” he said. “That’s what really is going on here with the Ten Commandments. Schoolchildren are subject to being a captive audience for particular government messages.”
Tuttle said the fact that Flynn’s bill makes displaying the Ten Commandments optional — not required — is not important.
“It’s a statement of what it’s like to live your life in the company of God,” he said. “It’s appropriate for congregations. … But I do not believe that it’s something I want the state trying to explain.”
Flynn has unsuccessfully proposed this measure in past legislative sessions.
He noted there are monuments — such as the one on the Texas Capitol grounds — that are dedicated to the Ten Commandments. The one in Austin, that features the commandments carved into Texas Sunset Red Granite, was erected by the Fraternal Order of Eagles of Texas in 1961.
In November, voters in Alabama approved a constitutional amendment allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in government buildings and schools.
When asked if this could spark a legal battle, Flynn said: “I don’t know why it should. It’s just allowing teachers to put something in their room that is about good values.”
Flynn said he filed the bill again because teachers have told him they want to display — not teach — the Ten Commandments in their classrooms.
“They want to put up a list of good, healthy guidelines for a good life,” Flynn said.
He said he believes 2019 may be the year this measure finally passes.
“We live in a day where everyone wants to question everything you do,” Flynn said. “A teacher’s classroom is her office, where she should be able to put things she wants to. I want to not let school boards prohibit them from doing it if they want to.”
Anyone who puts the Ten Commandments in a classroom, and spends the money to legally defend that move, “will lose and will pay the legal fees.”