ACLU to sue Louisiana for requiring Ten Commandments in public schools 

National News

By Zachary Stieber 
Contributing Writer 

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are planning to sue Louisiana over a new law that requires public schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. 

Louisiana House Bill 71, which became law on June 19, mandates that school districts must “display the Ten Commandments in each classroom in each school under its jurisdiction,” by Jan. 1, 2025. 

The law “violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional,” the ACLU, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a joint statement. 

The organizations pointed out that no other states require public schools to display the Ten Commandments, which is a list of directives from the Bible. They also highlighted a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found a Kentucky law requiring the commandments in every public school classroom “has no secular legislative purpose, and therefore is unconstitutional as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” 

In that case, Stone v. Graham, the 5-4 majority said that the Bible could be used in certain classes like history but that posting religious texts on walls “serves no such educational function.” 

Louisiana legislators cite another 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the law. Issued in 2005 in the case of Van Orden v. Perry, the Supreme Court found that the Establishment Clause allowed the display of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. 

“The placement of the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds is a far more passive use of those texts than was the case in Stone, where the text confronted elementary school students every day,” the majority said in that ruling. It added later that the display in Texas “has a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government.” 

Legislators also highlighted the 2019 decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The Supreme Court in the 7-2 ruling said displaying a cross on public land in Maryland was not unconstitutional, in part because the monument “has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of ‘a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.’” 

The law requires a “context statement” to be displayed with the commandments. The statement includes a brief history of the commandments being used in public education. 

The ACLU and the other groups said they’re confident they will prevail. “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,” they said in the joint statement. 

The organizations said they “will file suit” against the new law. 

Louisiana officials said they were expecting legal challenges. 

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, a Republican, said on the social media platform X that the commandments “are pretty simple (don’t kill, steal, cheat on your wife), but they also are important to our country’s foundations.” She added, “I look forward to defending the law.” 

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, another Republican, signed the bill on Wednesday along with about a dozen others. 

The slate of bills included legislation that bars requiring COVID-19 vaccination to attend public or private schools, mandates that teachers be paid at least $30 an hour for work outside their regular duties, and prohibits punishment for not using names or pronouns inconsistent with the sex and legal names of students and employees. 

“Today, we fulfilled our promise to bring drastic reform to our education system and bring common sense back to our classrooms,” Landry said in a statement. 

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