Louisiana mandates Ten Commandments in public schools

The ACLU is already suing the state.


On Wednesday, Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signed HB 71 into law making it mandatory for every public school to display a copy of the Ten Commandments, a code of conduct with common sense principles compiled by Moses, per the Old Testament, and adhered to by a number of Christians and Jews across the world for centuries. It has also been the basis for many laws.

While others have attempted to push similar legislation forward, the Pelican state is the first in the nation to make it happen. While some have celebrated the move, it has been criticized by civil rights groups. The ACLU is already suing the state.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, and its Louisiana chapter have all said they plan on challenging the law in court.

According to NPR, the new law requires public schools to display a copy of the Ten Commandments in every classroom. It must be in poster form, at least 11 inches wide by 14 inches tall, with the words printed in "large, easily readable font" clearly visible to those in attendance.

Those in support of the bill have made it clear that while physical inclusion of the Christian document will be mandatory, teachers are in no way being forced to give their students instructions on the rules laid out therein.

In a joint statement, civil rights groups argued that the law "violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional." The separation of church and state stems from the First Amendment of the Constitution which states that the government shall "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

"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," the civil rights groups explained. "Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools."

The groups pointed out that "Louisiana's communities and public schools are religiously diverse, yet HB 71 would require school officials to promote specific religious beliefs to which people of many faiths, and those of no faith, do not subscribe," adding, "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, and it certainly should not be coercing students to submit day in and day out to unavoidable promotions of religious doctrine."

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