Why does SB 1515 make me so mad?

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I’m having a tough time pinning down why exactly I am so mad.

I rarely go to bed angry.  The few times I do go to bed angry, I almost never wake up angry.  But that is where I found myself this morning.  Still angry.

I was having a fine dinner with friends at Uncle Dan’s last night, enjoying a delicious sliced-beef-and-sausage sandwich, when the conversation turned to politics.

I had somehow missed the article in the paper, so I was shocked to hear that Texas Senate has passed a bill (SB 1515) requiring that a “durable poster or framed copy” of the Ten Commandments in a size and typeface that is legible to a person with average vision from anywhere in the classroom be displayed in every elementary and secondary classroom in Texas.

This bill has passed the senate and is on its way to the Texas House of Representatives to potentially become a law.

I am mad about this bill.  Really mad.  I have to ask myself: with so many other arguably worse bills on the verge of becoming law, why am I so mad about this particular one?

I tell myself that I am mad because requiring a religious text to be posted in a state-run public school is clearly establishing a state religion which is expressly forbidden in the bill of rights. 

And I am mad about that.

The freedom to believe what I believe is core to who I am. The idea of a state religion – even if it exactly matched my own faith – feels like the worst kind of oppression to me.  I strongly believe that state religion is bad for the state and bad for religion.  I think we should keep a keen eye out for legislation that creeps in the direction of establishing a state religion.

But, if I am absolutely honest with myself, I don’t believe too many elementary school students are really going to have their personal faith (or lack of it) stifled by a poster of the Ten Commandments.  I don’t think my passionate commitment to freedom of religion is the root of my anger about this legislation.

I tell myself that I am mad because of the dumbness and waste of the whole idea. 

And I am mad about that.

Sen. Phil King of Weatherford is the author of this bill.  According to the Texas Tribune, Senator King believes this bill will “remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America.”[i]

I don’t know one thing about Senator King. Maybe he is a very sincere and wonderful God-fearing, patriotic person who really believes a poster of the Ten Commandments will inspire pride in America and her founding principles.  If so, bless his heart. I might have chosen the Bill of Rights for that job instead of the Ten Commandments, but I don’t think it really matters because I doubt four kids in the whole state will pay one bit of attention to this poster, whatever it might say.  If we spend one dollar on these posters, it will be one dollar wasted in my opinion.

It does make me mad to see us wasting time and money on such a dumb endeavor.

But, if I am absolutely honest with myself, I know that in the grand scheme of things the money wasted on this project will be a drop in the bucket.  Waste is bad for sure, but I don’t think that is really the root of why I am so angry about this legislation.

I believe what is really making me mad is that this legislation feels like a trap to me.

I feel like this bill is trying to convince me, and every Texas voter, that we must make a false binary choice between being a good person who loves God and supports the Ten Commandments, and a bad person who hates God and thinks moral behavior is for suckers.

Maybe I am being overly sensitive, but if I am it is from reading popular conservative literature such as The Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation by Pete Hegseth.  This book, and others like it, paint people like me – who question legislation like SB 1515 – as Godless Marxists who are trying to use “government schools” to mold our children into mindless drones.  (If you think I am exaggerating – read it for yourself.)

Just because I do not support this or similar bills does not mean I am “against” the Ten Commandments, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I am “against” God.

I take the Ten Commandments seriously as a part of my own moral framework. I think children should learn about the Ten Commandments – certainly at home and in church — and even in school in the context of learning about our history and culture.  Unquestionably the Ten Commandments are a cornerstone document in the story of the world and any educated person should be familiar with them.

I don’t have a problem with that.

I don’t even have any particular problem with teachers posting the Ten Commandments (or any other Bible verses for that matter) in their classrooms just because they like them and draw personal inspiration from them.  It doesn’t hurt a child to know that a teacher admires Jesus or Buddha or Ghandi or Malcolm X or whoever.  We all admire different people for different reasons and it doesn’t hurt us to know that about each other.

I do have a problem with requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in every classroom. As I have explained above, I think that is a silly waste at best, and a step too far in the direction of a state religion at worst.

I understand that people are worried about our country – maybe that is why they turn to familiar teachings like the Ten Commandments.  I am worried about us too.  I look around and see us killing each other, stealing from each other, committing adultery seemingly without a second thought, and lying to and about each other with regularity.  Sometimes I feel like we have literally built our whole economy on coveting our neighbor’s possessions.

Why are we like this?  Why do we do these things?  Why can’t we learn to be content, to live together in peace and with love and consideration for each other? Why do we hurt each other?  I ask God these questions every day.

I think it is important for us to ask each other these questions too – certainly at home and in church — but also in the public school if it can be done in a fairly objective way that considers many points of view.

My best teachers at good old Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas, helped me wrestle with these kinds of ideas in literature and history and sociology classes.  They did it with intellectual honesty, fairness and a broad perspective on the world.  They did not attempt to “sell” me on one religion or another.  They encouraged, or at least tolerated, my questions.  That is part of educating for citizenship.  I had some terrific teachers – my observation is that most schools have some terrific teachers.

I want current and future students to have at least as rich an education as I had – but providing that kind of education is getting harder and harder as our world gets ever smaller, noisier, and more diverse.

Purposefully or accidentally, legislation like SB 1515 polarizes us.  It pits us against each other when we need to be listening to each other and working together.  We have serious challenges when it comes to public school education. We need all hands on deck, all minds working to figure out how to make it work for all our children. We don’t have time for polarizing legislation that makes it harder for us to work together.  I think that’s what really makes me mad.

******** Letter to Doc Anderson, Texas House of Representatives ********

Dear Doc Anderson,

I strongly oppose Senate Bill 1515 that requires the Ten Commandments be posted in Public School classrooms.

As an American, I find this to be an unpatriotic contradiction of the right to freedom of religion. Requiring a religious text to be displayed in state-run public school classrooms is clearly establishing a state religion which is expressly forbidden in the bill of rights.

As a Christian, I find this to be an offensive attempt to play politics with one of the sacred texts of my faith. To me, requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in a public school classroom, much like requiring prayer, has the effect of elevating the appearance of religiosity while diminishing heartfelt consideration of faith.

As a citizen who cares about the future of our society, I find this to be an ill-considered distraction from the very real challenges facing our public schools in providing the sound education that is so critically important for our children, our communities, our state, and our whole country. Please vote against this bill when it comes to the house for consideration.

Sincerely, your constituent, Ashley Bean Thornton



[i]  Texas Senate bill would require schools to display Ten Commandments | The Texas Tribune.



  1. Carmen on April 30, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    This seems like one more step towards an attempt at theocracy.
    If the 10 commandments are allowed what about the 75 Good Manners in the Quaran or the 5 pillars of Islam, the five Yamas of ancient Hindu ethics, or the basic principles of the Bahá’i faith.

    If you have never been in the minority you really don’t know the terrible feeling of having to see your views, your faith, and your spirituality discounted.

    The 10 commandments and all other religious texts do not belong in public schools.

  2. Charles Antonini on May 1, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    Interesting take on the Abrahamic code of conduct. All three Abrahamic religions acknowledge and follow these set of “laws”. Western law is patterned off this code. Most all deity centered religions have similar codes of conduct. You can call them anything you like, Human tenets of a purposeful life? I see no problem with the display of them; making them mandatory might be stretching it a tad, maybe. Maybe this is just what we need, especially when an institution is out of control. Usually, things like this heavy-handed move is like a regulation to recenter a failed self-regulating tilted system. I think this system (Education as a whole) has no one to blame but themselves. So as the pendulum swings yet again, take your medicine, learn from your mistakes and ingest, reflect and react accordingly within the law. Maybe by this “awakening” one may recenter and get back to the basics of teaching “The Golden Rules” and the 3 R’s!

  3. Charles Antonini on May 1, 2023 at 11:26 pm

    “I feel like this bill is trying to convince me, and every Texas voter, that we must make a false binary choice between being a good person who loves God and supports the Ten Commandments, and a bad person who hates God and thinks moral behavior is for suckers.” Well, I would want everyone to choose the first one as it is probably the best of the choices of the two available. Just saying…

    • ashleythornton on May 2, 2023 at 9:35 am

      And what I’m saying is that is a false binary choice…as I explain in the rest of the post.

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