Louisiana Gov. Signs Law Requiring Ten Commandments to Be Displayed in Classrooms

Louisiana is the first state to require the display of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom after Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed a bill Wednesday.

Under the HB 71 legislation, a display of the Ten Commandments in poster format in “large, easily readable print” is required in all public classrooms, from kindergartens to state-funded universities. Over the weekend, Landry touted the bill at a fundraiser in Tennessee.

“I'm coming home to sign a bill that puts the Ten Commandments in public classrooms,” he said, according to an article in the Tennessean. “And I can’t wait to get sued.”

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The Ten Commandments placed outside a building

Workers remove a monument bearing the Ten Commandments outside West Union High School, June 9, 2003, in West Union, Ohio. (PA)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana announced Wednesday that it will challenge the law in court, saying it violates long-standing U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the First Amendment.

“We are preparing a lawsuit to challenge HB 71. The law violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional,” the ACLU said in a joint statement with Americans United for Separation of Church. Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. “The First Amendment promises that we will all decide for ourselves what, if any, religious beliefs to adopt and practice, without government pressure. Politicians do not have to impose their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools .”

The groups said the new law would send a “scary message” to students and families who don’t follow the state’s preferred version of the Ten Commandments.

However, Matt Krause, attorney at First Liberty Institute, praised the decision, saying, “The Pelican State has rightly recognized the history and tradition of the Ten Commandments in the state. Putting this historic document on school walls is a great way to remind students of the foundations of American and Louisiana law.

In 1980, the high court ruled that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional and violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress may “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The High Court found that the law had no secular objective but rather served a clearly religious objective.

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A sign displaying the Ten Commandments

Workers repaint a Ten Commandments billboard along Interstate 71 on Election Day near Chenoweth, Ohio, November 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Supporters of the law say the measure's purpose is not solely religious, but that it has historical significance. In the language of the law, the Ten Commandments are described as “founding documents of our state and national government.”

The displays, which will be accompanied by a four-paragraph “contextual statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “have been an important part of American public education for nearly three centuries,” are to be installed in school classrooms. here in early 2025.

The posters will be financed by donations and not by public funds. The law also “authorizes,” but does not require, the display of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance in K-12 public schools.

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Other states like Texas and Oklahoma have proposed similar bills but have been unable to pass them due to threats of legal battles over questions of constitutionality.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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