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Texas lawmaker calling Ten Commandments in schools 'deeply un-Christian' opposed ban on sexually explicit materials in libraries

Rep. Talarico misquotes Jesus, suggests placing Commandments in schools is 'idolatrous' in hearing

Unsplash/Banter Snaps

A Texas state lawmaker who voted against rating pornographic materials in school libraries is leading a legislative effort to oppose the placing of the Ten Commandments in public schools.

State Rep. James Talarico, D-Austin, has accused his Republican colleagues of “trying to force public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom” under a bill passed last month by the state Senate.

Introduced by Republican state Sen. Phil King, Senate Bill 1515 would require Texas public elementary and secondary schools to display the Ten Commandments in each classroom by amending current law related to how such displays are regulated in public schools.

But Talarico — whose Twitter bio describes him as a “former middle school teacher, proud progressive, and eighth generation Texan” and quotes 1 John 4:8 — said during a public education committee hearing on May 2 that he believes SB1515 is “unconstitutional” and “deeply un-Christian.”

Rep. James Talarico in a screenshot of a 2020 YouTube video. | YouTube/James Talarico

During the hearing, Talarico addressed the bill’s author, state Rep. Candy Noble, R-Plano, by acknowledging what he said was their shared faith in Christ.

“I know you're a devout Christian, and so am I,” said Talarico. “This bill to me is not only unconstitutional, it's not only un-American, I think it is also deeply un-Christian.

“And I say that because I believe this bill is idolatrous, I believe it is exclusionary, and I believe it is arrogant. And those three things, in my reading of the Gospel, are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus.”

Talarico went on to paraphrase part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in an apparent argument against publicly proclaiming the Gospel.

“You probably know Matthew 6:5 when Jesus says, ‘Don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners. When you pray, go into your room and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.’ 

“A religion that has to force people to put up a poster to prove its legitimacy is a dead religion. And it's not one that I want to be a part of, it's not one that I think I am a part of.”

Talarico also misquoted the words of Jesus when he attempted to apply Jesus’ command to “love our neighbor” to those who are not Christians.

“We both follow a teacher, a rabbi, who said, 'Don't let the law get in the way of loving your neighbor. Loving your neighbor is the most important law. It is the summation of all the law and all the prophets,” said Talarico, misquoting Matthew 22, in which Jesus teaches that loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…is the first and greatest commandment.”

Talarico added, “I would submit to you that our neighbor also includes the Hindu student who sits in a classroom, the Buddhist student who sits in a classroom, and an atheist student who sits in a classroom.

“And my question to you is, does this bill truly love those students?”

Talarico then suggested the Ten Commandments bill itself is “idolatrous” according to the Second Commandment, which forbids the making of carved images to worship.

“The idea is that some people would try to make an object — maybe two tablets — to worship rather than worshiping the God behind those two tablets. Are you worried that this bill is idolatrous?” he asked.

“Absolutely not,” said Noble.

The Christian Post is awaiting comment from Talarico as of Tuesday evening. This story will be updated if a response is received.

In March, Talarico was one of two Democrats who voted against legislation that would prohibit “sexually explicit materials” in schools and require parents to opt-in their child in order for them to access any “sexually relevant material” in school.

Known as the “READER Act,” House Bill 900, which was introduced by state Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, is currently in the Senate Education Committee. 

During a House committee hearing in March on HB 900, Talarico voiced concern to Patterson that classic works like Catcher in the Rye could be banned due to excessive use of profanity, and even suggested the Bible might fall under the category — an assertion Patterson rejected outright, according to The Texan.

Ultimately, Talarico voted along with state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, against the bill, which passed the committee by a 10-2 vote.

Prior to the committee vote, Talarico retweeted a post that slammed HB 900 as “Christian nationalist purity culture.”

Screenshot of retweet from Rep. Talarico which called a proposed ban on pornographic materials in Texas school libraries "Christian nationalist purity culture." | Screenshot/Twitter

In an interview with Texas Freedom Network last December, Talarico revealed that in addition to serving his third term in the Texas House, he will be going to seminary in between legislative sessions and election cycles.

He also said that just as “religion always pointed me toward politics ... now politics is pointing me back to religion.”

“As a progressive member of the Legislature, people often ask me where I got my politics. They’re usually surprised when I say “my church.” Last session, I (accidentally) sparked some controversy with my invocation on the House floor. I guess after decades of hearing from the Religious Right, some people had forgotten what progressive Christianity sounds like.”

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ian.giatti@christianpost.com

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