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Landry signs law making Louisiana first in nation to require Ten Commandments posted in public classrooms

3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago Wednesday, June 19 2024 Jun 19, 2024 June 19, 2024 10:27 PM June 19, 2024 in News

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom under a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on Wednesday.

The GOP-drafted legislation mandates that a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” be required in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities. Although the bill did not receive final approval from Landry, the time for gubernatorial action — to sign or veto the bill — has lapsed.

Opponents question the law’s constitutionality, warning that lawsuits are likely to follow.

Organizations like Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFFR) told WBRZ they believe the new law is unconstitutional.

“Well [Governor Landry] is very misinformed and ignorant because our nation was the first among nations to separate religion from government,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of FFRF, said.

Gaylor says that students who are not Christian may feel like outsiders in their own classroom. She said that all societies outlaw crimes like murder or theft and some of the commandments are just out of reach.

“Why should a kindergartener be told 'Thou shall not commit adultery?' Why does that make the top 10? That’s absurd that little children would be exposed to some concept like adultery,” she said.

Gaylor said that FFRF will take legal action challenging the new Ten Commandments law.

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

The displays, which will be paired with a four-paragraph “context statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries,” must be in place in classrooms by the start of 2025.

Attorney General Liz Murrill said she supports Gov. Landry's efforts. 

"The 10 Commandments are pretty simple (don’t kill, steal, cheat on your wife), but they also are important to our country’s foundations. Moses, who you may recall brought the 10 Commandments down from Mount Sinai, appears eight times in carvings that ring the United States Supreme Court Great Hall ceiling. I look forward to defending the law," Murrill said in a statement. 

The posters would be paid for through donations. State funds will not be used to implement the mandate, based on language in the legislation.

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.

Similar bills requiring the Ten Commandments 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 had success in making the bills 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 says Congress can “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The high court found that the law had no secular purpose but rather served a plainly religious purpose.

Louisiana’s controversial law, in a state ensconced in the Bible Belt, comes during a new era of conservative leadership in the state under Landry, who replaced two-term Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in January.

The GOP also has a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature, and Republicans hold every statewide elected position, paving the way for lawmakers to push through a conservative agenda during the legislative session that concluded earlier this month.

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