AUSTIN, Texas — Dozens of Texas chaplains have issued a letter urging school board members across the state to keep chaplains out of public schools.
The letter – which was signed by more than 100 chaplains and organized by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), Interfaith Alliance and Texas Impact – was issued ahead of Senate Bill 763 going into effect on Sept. 1. The law allows districts to vote on whether to create chaplaincy programs to "provide support, services, and programs for students."
In the letter, the chaplains said that such programs are an affront to religious freedoms and the separation of church and state and that the programs would take funding away from trained mental health professionals.
The chaplains said they "strongly caution against the government assertion of authority for the spiritual development and formation" of public school children and noted that the law does not include a requirement that chaplains refrain from proselytizing while at schools or that they serve students from different religious backgrounds.
"As trained chaplains, we are not qualified for the duties envisioned by SB 763. We cooperate with mental health counselors – we do not compete with them," the letter states. "Further, professions which help children with sensitive matters, such as therapists and police investigators, typically require special training on how to interview and treat juveniles. Few chaplains have this expertise."
The chaplains also expressed concern that the law states that salaries for school chaplains would be drawn from funds designated for school safety and security improvements, including restorative discipline and justice practices, suicide prevention and intervention and mental and behavioral health support.
"We are deeply concerned about using chaplains in these roles to provide those services, particularly as the law does not require any specific training or qualifications," the letter states.
The chaplains said that their presence in public schools would likely "bring about conflict with the religious beliefs of parents" and that chaplains serving in public schools would "amount to spiritual malpractice."