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Separation of church and state within our public schools is vital. It is important for students to understand that their diverse religious views are accepted and that they will be embraced regardless of their background. Our public schools serve an array of students from different religions, all of whom deserve to feel welcome within their schools. In what would be an egregious violation of church and state, Florida is looking to become the next state to allow chaplains to serve in schools.  

There has been a growing movement to allow chaplains to serve in public schools, oftentimes in replacement of school guidance counselors. The proposed Florida legislation undermines the need for increased support within schools from licensed counselors during the current mental health crisis. Last year, Texas became the first state to legalize allowing chaplains to serve in public schools. Neither piece of legislation requires that chaplains serve students from diverse religious backgrounds or refrain from religious education in a public school environment. Allowing this level of religious intervention in public schools is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  

At least 13 other states are considering bills that mimic the legislation passed in Texas. Florida’s legislation would allow school districts and charter schools to permit chaplains to provide “support, services, and programs to students.” Beyond requiring a background check, the legislation outlines minimal requirements for the chaplains.  

The Satanic Temple, an IRS-recognized church, has declared its intention to send its ministers into schools in an attempt to force the issue of religious freedom and separation of church and state. The director of ministry at the Temple, whose stated mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy,” has said that “any opportunity that exists for ministers or chaplains in the public sector must not discriminate based on religious affiliation.” The sponsor of the bill, 

Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, said that she is concerned about the Satanic Temple’s involvement.

Pastors: Pastors for Texas Children is an independent ministry that provides services to children across the state of Texas. They are firm believers in the separation of church and state and have been vocal in opposing public money going to private school vouchers in Texas.

Chaplains: When Texas was considering its bill to allow chaplains in public schools, more than 100 chaplains signed an opposition letter about the policy. The chaplains wrote that “because of our training and experience, we know that chaplains are not a replacement for school counselors or safety measures in our public schools, and we urge you to reject this flawed policy option: It is harmful to our public schools and the students and families they serve.” 

The Interfaith Alliance is dedicated to promoting religious freedom and civil rights. The organization has an ongoing “Say No to Chaplains in Public Schools” campaign, where it tracks states that have introduced this legislation and promotes opposition efforts. The Alliance maintains a petition for the general public to sign to oppose this legislation and an opposition letter for chaplains to sign. 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is dedicated to promoting religious freedom across America. The organization has a public schools initiative that offers resources on important topics such as vouchers, school-sponsored prayer, and teaching religion in public schools.