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Alabama public schools could hire chaplains under Republican lawmaker’s bill

The Alabama House of Representatives meets in an organizational session on Jan. 10, 2023. The House elected Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, as speaker. (Mike Cason/

An Alabama lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would allow public schools in Alabama to hire chaplains or use volunteer chaplains to work with students.

Rep. Mark Gidley, R-Hokes Bluff, said he modeled the bill after one the Texas legislature passed last year.

“The bottom line is this, and it’s very, very, very simple,” Gidley said. “We have chaplains for everything. We have chaplains in the military, we have chaplains for police. The list goes on and on and on.”

Gidley’s bill, which he has pre-filed for the legislative session that starts in three weeks, says that beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, public schools can employ or accept as a volunteer a chaplain “to provide support, services, and programs for students.”

The bill says chaplains would not be required to be certified by the state Board of Education. They would have to pass the criminal background check required for school employees.

The bill would require every local board of education to take a recorded vote by April 1, 2025, on whether to adopt a policy authorizing its schools to hire a chaplain or use a volunteer chaplain.

“It’s simply an opportunity for schools to implement this to help with discipline, to help with order, to pick up areas to help in the school where maybe administration is not able to do due to just time restraints or whatever it might be,” said Gidley, whose district includes parts of Etowah and Chilton counties. “It’s just an opportunity to help schools in these areas that, as you know, our schools really desperately need help.”

Gidley said he did not think the bill would violate the First Amendment prohibition on government-established religion because of the precedents set by chaplains employed by the military and by law enforcement agencies.

“This is not a government establishment of religion at all,” Gidley said. “It’s just an opportunity of doing in our schools what we do in almost every other organization. It’s not an establishment of religion. It’s an opportunity to help our schools, should they take advantage of it, with discipline and other things that arise, just like we have in almost every other organization from the national level all the way down.”

The legislative session starts Feb. 6.


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