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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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ACLU vows to sue as Louisiana becomes first state to require posting Ten Commandments in public schools

Governor Jeff Landry said he “can’t wait to be sued” over the controversial law. The ACLU is ready to answer his call.

BATON ROUGE (CN) — The Ten Commandments soon must be placed visibly in every classroom across Louisiana, the first state to adopt such legislation after Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed House Bill 71 into law on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

Beginning in 2025, posting the Ten Commandments will be required in all public classrooms, with specific guidelines outlined in the legislation:

“At a minimum, the Ten Commandments shall be displayed on a poster or framed document that is at least eleven inches by fourteen inches," the bill says. "The text of the Ten Commandments shall be the central focus of the poster or framed document and shall be printed in a large, easily readable font.”

Those in favor of the law say it's meant to reintroduce “foundational documents of our state and national government” into schools.

Opponents say it clearly violates the separation of church and state — and warn that lawsuits are inevitable.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, for one, announced Wednesday just hours after the bill was signed that it is joining forces with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation to file a suit challenging the new law.

“The law violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional,” the ACLU said in its press release Wednesday.

“The First Amendment promises that we all get to decide for ourselves what religious beliefs, if any, to hold and practice, without pressure from the government. Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools," the organization continued.

Landry spoke boastfully about the bill during a keynote speech at a Republican fundraiser in Tennessee on Saturday, and said he “can’t wait to be sued” over it.

Before Landry signed it on Wednesday, lawmakers made changes to the bill in an effort to have it conform as much as possible to existing laws and added references to previous court rulings that allowed display of the Ten Commandments under specific terms.

As a result, HB 71 requires that a four-paragraph “context statement” be posted near the Ten Commandments explaining that they “were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries.” Other historical documents may also appear beside the Ten Commandments, including the Declaration of Independence, HB 71 provides.

The legislation also says the cost of the posters to display the Commandments will be covered by donations, so state funds won’t be used to enforce the rule.

But opponents to the rule, including the ACLU, say displaying biblical directives in public schools will have an isolating effect on students of different faiths.

They say the move "will result in unconstitutional religious coercion of students, who are legally required to attend school and are thus a captive audience for school-sponsored religious messages."

"They will also send a chilling message to students and families who do not follow the state’s preferred version of the Ten Commandments that they do not belong, and are not welcome, in our public schools,” the ACLU said in its press release Wednesday.

Other Republican-led states including Oklahoma and Texas have made efforts to pass similar legislation but so far have not been successful.

Follow @SabrinaCanfiel2
Categories / Government, National, Politics, Religion

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