There is a multi-state trend for public schools to replace guidance counselors with pastors

There is a multi-state trend for public schools to replace guidance counselors with pastors

Back to school.  Male teacher in classroom standing near chalk board.Fun fact about the United States: It has no official religion! It’s effectively Christian, given how heavy a role the Christian Right plays in policymaking, but there are some general safeguards designed to prevent the cross from being shoved down your throat. It’s not like public schools are replacing student counselors with pastors or anything. That would look a lot like creating a framework for state-enforced religion. According to The Humanist, a growing number of countries are doing just that:

[A]in the United States, the drive to appoint religious chaplains to public schools is growing at an alarming rate.

As of today, legislatures in thirteen states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah, have introduced bills that allow religious chaplains to serve as school counselors or volunteers in schools; Texas already has a law in place allowing chaplains in schools since it passed SB 763 in the summer of 2023.

Back when Con Law professors weren’t crying foul about whether the Supreme Court would regularly overturn their curricula, there was a common sense understanding that there had to be separation of church and state. We send the children to school, not to conversion camps after all. But between the Supreme Court blessing Maine Christian schools with state funding and a coach praying at the 50-yard line, the Establishment Clause has ceased to matter. States are now free to turn consultations into confessional ones. This is terrifying. In 13 states, stressed-out public school students can be referred to a chaplain and meet with the following:

In case your immediate response was that being told to pray to remove anxiety is an unrealistic expectation since clerical advisors would have some other potential worldly training they could fall into, this is not mandatory:

[T]the final language in Texas SB 763 says that “a chaplain employed or volunteered under this chapter shall not be required to be certified by the State Educator Certification Board.” Chaplains hired to provide counseling to students in Texas schools under this law must pass only a criminal background check.

Do you want youth pastors? Because that’s how you get youth pastors at best. At worst, you institutionalize potential threats to students’ mental well-being:

Opponents of the school chaplain bills point out that they could actually do more harm than good. In this Texas Tribune article from last year, Dr. Lindsey Bira, a psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Health San Antonio who focuses on stress, trauma and anxiety, said, “…the priest is not trained in how the brain works or whatever helps it work best. Someone with a religious background may push through prayer or other strategies that increase shame.

Part of the push for these changes is that there are not enough school counselors available to students. Wow, if only there was a recent movement in one of these states demanding that funds be redirected to address the need for student counselors. Oh, that’s right, Maryland has been pushing for counselors, not cops, for years:

The lack of consultants is a completely predictable problem that arises from the choice of budget. It’s bad will to throw up your hands and start sending out the clergy as if that’s the only realistic alternative. For years, we’ve seen reports of police departments receiving millions of dollars in funding while teachers beg for pencils on behalf of their students.

Unless the Supreme Court decides to add some teeth back to the Establishment Clause, you should expect Christianization efforts to start picking up steam. And if you’re an atheist, Jew, Muslim, or any flavor of non-Christian, good luck.

Worrying Trend: Pushing Religious Chaplains into Public Schools [The Humanist]

Previously: So long, establishment clause. Now what?
Does the establishment clause mean nothing to you people? I know it doesn’t apply to SCOTUS, but come on


Chris Williams became Social Media Manager and Associate Editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he served as a secondary Memelord™ on the Law School Memes Facebook group for Edgy T14s. He lasted Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis Law School. He’s a former boat builder who can’t swim, a published author of critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love of cycling that sometimes annoys his peers. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and by tweet at @WritesForRent.

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