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Louisiana requires display of Ten Commandments in public school classrooms

Civil rights groups plan lawsuit as Louisiana becomes the first state to pass Ten Commandments law
Photo credit: / maroke

Republican Governor Jeff Landry recently signed a law requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed in Louisiana public school classrooms. This legislation mandates that a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” be placed in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

Governor Landry stated, “If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses,” referring to the biblical figure who received the commandments from God.

Opponents of the law have questioned its constitutionality and vowed to challenge it in court. Proponents argue that the measure is not solely religious but also holds historical significance. According to the law, the Ten Commandments are “foundational documents of our state and national government.”

Further classroom additions

The posters, which will include a four paragraph context statement describing the historical significance of the Ten Commandments in American public education, must be in place by the start of 2025. State funds will not be used to implement this mandate; instead, the posters will be funded through donations.

The law also authorizes, but does not require, the display of other historical documents in K-12 public schools, such as the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance.

Lawsuits against the mandate

Shortly after the bill was signed into law at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, civil rights groups and organizations advocating for the separation of church and state announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging it. The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation issued a joint statement arguing that the law prevents students from receiving an equal education and could alienate children with different beliefs.

“Even among those who may believe in some version of the Ten Commandments, the particular text that they adhere to can differ by religious denomination or tradition. The government should not be taking sides in this theological debate,” the groups stated.

This controversial law comes during a new era of conservative leadership in Louisiana under Governor Landry, who replaced two-term Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards in January. The GOP holds a supermajority in the Legislature, and Republicans occupy every statewide elected position, enabling lawmakers to advance a conservative agenda.

Past attempts at similar bills

Similar bills requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in classrooms have been proposed in other states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Utah. However, with threats of legal battles over the constitutionality of such measures, no state besides Louisiana has succeeded in enacting these bills into law.

Legal battles over the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms are not new. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional and violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing a religion. The high court found that the law had no secular purpose but served a plainly religious purpose.

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