Kristocentric Station

In the upcoming school year, Florida public schools will join other states in allowing volunteer chaplains on campus to counsel students. Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed the measure into law, even more states are expected to follow suit. 

After this law takes effect July 1, the process will begin as volunteer chaplains apply and undergo background checks. Then it will be up to school districts, individual students, and their parents to take part.

“No one’s being forced to do anything,” Gov. DeSantis said in a press conference after signing the measure into law. “But to exclude religious groups from campus, that is discrimination. You’re basically saying that God has no place. That’s wrong.” 

“It’s a great thing – my dad was a preacher. I’m a preacher’s kid and it’s great,” Paul Renner (R) of the Florida House of Representatives told CBN News. 

More than a dozen states, including Iowa, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have proposed measures to allow a chaplaincy program in public schools. 

“Seventeen states are involved in chaplain legislation,” Rocky Malloy, CEO of the National School Chaplain Association, told CBN News. “It just recently, it passed out of both houses of Louisiana. We expect it to be sent to the governor soon. It is happening around the country because it’s so needed.”

Renner believes chaplains can offer alternatives for students, pointing out that guidance counselors in the state had allowed and even encouraged students to transition to the opposite sex without their parent’s consent. 

“They were given different clothes to wear, changing their name without ever telling their parents,” Renner commented. “If this is the kind of guidance they’re getting from guidance counselors, I think it’s about time we have a different perspective in the middle of the school that does respect our values.”

The recent push for chaplains comes as mental health issues among students are growing and schools face a shortage of counselors. 

According to the American School Counselor Association, the disparity for the 2022-2023 school year came in at a ratio of 385 students to one counselor. The recommended number is 250 to one.

Malloy said he cannot overemphasize the great need.

“I got news of two children that committed suicide,” Malloy explained. “One was in eighth grade, one was in 10th grade, and it’s schools that did not have chaplains. The chaplain’s role is to prevent that type of calamity from happening.”

In 2023, Texas became the first state to allow school chaplains to help counter a decrease in qualified mental health professionals and growing teacher burnout. 

“The idea that our teachers now are experiencing high levels of trauma and PTSD, that is something new that’s happening in education,” said Julie Pickren, a member of the Texas Board of Education. “Our teachers need support. Chaplains are great to help our teachers through this.”

Pickren pointed out that chaplains have also resulted in making schools in her state safer. 

“A chaplain in Texas was key in one of our school districts in noticing what was happening with the students and what was going on with these young girls and brought it to light to the sheriff and was instrumental in identifying this human trafficking ring in a school district in Texas,” Pickren said. 

Critics, however, claim that chaplains could do more harm than good. One concern is that their only requirement is to pass a background check and that schools notate a chaplain’s religious affiliation. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said in a statement, “Public schools are not Sunday schools and chaplains are not school counselors. Allowing chaplains to assume official positions whether paid or voluntary in public schools as counselors or other support staff will undermine this right by creating an environment ripe for evangelizing and religious coercion of students in violation of the First Amendment of the Supreme Court.”

It is a claim that Renner disputes.

“The Constitution prohibits the establishment of a religion,” he said. “For example, forcing us all to be Catholic or Baptist. It does not in any way, shape, or form, despite a lot of effort to say otherwise, prohibit the free exercise of religion. And so, the Left has done a good job of trying to get Christians out of the public life altogether.”

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, the Satanic Temple is seeking to take advantage of this movement and has threatened to deploy its “ministers” into schools if the state approves a measure allowing chaplains. 

Oklahoma’s Superintendent Ryan Walters pushed back against such a threat saying, “Satanists are not welcome in Oklahoma schools.” 

Meanwhile, with schools faced with such unprecedented challenges, Malloy believes the time is now for schools to embrace chaplains.

“Sixty years ago, they did something. They said they don’t need God. Look where it took us ’til today. God is back. The chaplain is the perfect person. They’re the spiritual source of the school,” Malloy said.

Source CBN News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *