“Your teacher said you misbehaved in class. Bow your head and pray for guidance and how you can better behave in class,” said Rev. Johnson, a chaplain at a public school in Texas. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Can you see public schools where your school counselor has been replaced by a religious chaplain? It doesn’t matter what your family believes, Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, or Humanist. This is now happening across the United States or has the potential to happen.

39 percent of schools reported that lack of access to licensed professionals and mental health funding were major roadblocks to their efforts supporting student mental health source


In Texas, this can already happen. The law has already been passed. It allows chaplains to serve as school counselors. Other states are ready to follow Texas' lead. Since there’s a dearth of school counselors to fill positions in schools, similar laws offer a way out at a price. Can you say the Establishment clause?

Today, what constitutes an “establishment of religion” is often governed under the three-part test set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971). Under the “Lemon” test, government can assist religion only if (1) the primary purpose of the assistance is secular, (2) the assistance must neither promote nor inhibit religion, and (3) there is no excessive entanglement between church and state. Source

Of course, there are other perspectives on this issue.


While some say it’s about meeting a dire need, given the gaps in available counselors, some says it’s about indoctrinating students in Christianity. What does the insertion of chaplains into schools mean for American democracy at a time when Christian Nationalism is on the rise? Why are laws pushing for chaplains instead of mental health professionals?


Can Americans who believe in the separation of church and state sit idly by? Should we? It doesn’t matter where you fit in on your beliefs, or if you are a student, parent, educator, or community member. It’s critical to push back against the infiltration of religion into public schools. We must protect our children’s access to unbiased, mental health support. Leave religion for private religious schools (which in the interests of full disclosure, I attended PreK-12).

Note: This was an experiment at using the AIDA Model. Did it work?

AIDA Model

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