ACLU challenges Louisiana law requiring Ten Commandments in public classrooms

GOP legislator Dodie Horton hailed bill as "major win."

June 21st 2024.

ACLU challenges Louisiana law requiring Ten Commandments in public classrooms
The recent announcement by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil rights and religious freedom organizations has caused quite a stir. They have declared their intention to take legal action against the state of Louisiana for its new mandate requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. This news was shared on June 19, just after Governor Jeff Landry, a Republican, signed the bill into law. Louisiana is now the first state to have such a requirement, covering all grades from elementary to high school.

The ACLU of Louisiana, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, strongly believe that this law is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. In a joint statement, they stated that the law is unconstitutional, and that it goes against the First Amendment, which guarantees our right to choose our own religious beliefs without interference from the government. They firmly believe that politicians have no place forcing their personal religious views onto students and families in public schools.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools has been brought before the Supreme Court. In 1980, the case of Stone v. Graham was heard, and the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for public schools to have the Ten Commandments on display. However, Louisiana's House Bill 71, which mandates the display, specifies that the posters must be at least 11 by 14 inches and must be the main focus of the classroom, in a large and easily readable font.

The author of this legislation, Republican state Representative Dodie Horton, has called it a "huge victory." In fact, she had previously proposed a bill in 2023 that required public schools to have an "In God We Trust" poster displayed in classrooms. With this new law, she seems to be satisfied that her efforts have paid off. In an event in Tennessee on June 18, Governor Landry reportedly told attendees that he was excited to return to Louisiana to sign the bill into law, and he even joked about looking forward to the inevitable lawsuit that will follow.

However, civil rights groups are concerned about the impact this law will have on students and their education. They believe that it could be disruptive and create an environment that is not conducive to learning. In their statement, the groups expressed worry about the diversity of religious beliefs in Louisiana's communities and public schools. They fear that the new law will require school officials to promote specific religious beliefs that may not align with the beliefs of students and families of different faiths, or those who do not follow any religion at all.

Moreover, advocates are also fighting for students' rights to religious freedom. They believe that all students should feel safe and welcomed in public schools, and that this law will do the opposite. By promoting one specific religious belief, it could alienate students of other faiths and prevent schools from providing an equal education to all students, regardless of their religious beliefs.

According to the law, all posters must be displayed by the beginning of 2025, and the costs will be covered by donations, as state funds will not be used for this mandate. As of now, no official lawsuit has been filed, but Governor Landry seems to be bracing himself for the legal battle. His words at the fundraiser event suggest that he is prepared for the pushback, and he stands by his decision to have the Ten Commandments displayed in public school classrooms. This issue has sparked a heated debate, and only time will tell how it will unfold.

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