Louisiana Hit With Lawsuit Over Law Requiring Ten Commandments in Schools

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
June 25, 2024US News
Louisiana Hit With Lawsuit Over Law Requiring Ten Commandments in Schools
Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry speaks during a press conference to discuss his decision to veto House Bill 423, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La., on June 18, 2024. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

Louisiana’s new law requiring schools to post the Ten Commandments violates the U.S. Constitution, parents say in a lawsuit that asks a federal court to permanently block the statute.

The new law, signed on June 18, requires schools to display the Ten Commandments in each classroom along with an accompanying “context statement.”

The lawsuit states that “for nearly half a century, it has been well settled that the First Amendment forbids public schools from posting the Ten Commandments in this manner,” and cites a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar law in Kentucky.

The Louisiana law “violates this binding precedent and the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” it says.

The Establishment Clause says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and the 1980 ruling, in Stone v. Graham, found that mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools violated the clause.

The Free Exercise Clause says Congress shall not make laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.

The suit was filed in federal court in Baton Rouge by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of parents of Louisiana schoolchildren.

The parents suing over the law include those of other faiths who say exposing their children to the Ten Commandments will interfere with the guidance of their children in their faiths.

Many students are not religious or do not subscribe to the Ten Commandments, which come from the Bible and include the commandment “thou shalt not kill,” plaintiffs say. However, with the display of the commandments, these students “will be unconstitutionally coerced into religious observance, veneration, and adoption of the state’s favored religious scripture, and they will be pressured to suppress their personal religious beliefs and practices, especially in school, to avoid the potential disfavor, reproach, and/or disapproval of school officials and/or their peers,” they argue.

They’re seeking an order declaring the law to be in violation of the Constitution, an order permanently blocking officials from enforcing the law, and an order requiring officials to provide a copy of the injunction to all schools in the state.

“As an interfaith family, we strongly value religious inclusion and diversity, and we teach our children that all people are equal and have inherent dignity and worth. The Ten Commandments displays required by this law fly in the face of these values and send a message of religious intolerance,” plaintiffs Darcy Oake, a Unitarian Universalist minister, and her husband, Adrian Van Young, said in a statement.

“As a nonreligious family, we oppose the government forcibly subjecting our child to a religious scripture that we don’t believe in,” two other plaintiffs, Jennifer Harding and Benjamin Owens, added.

Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton, who spearheaded the measure, said in a speech that “given all the junk our children are exposed to in classrooms today, it’s imperative that we put the Ten Commandments back in a prominent position.” She added that the commandments do not “preach a certain religion” but instead show “a moral code that we all should live by.”

No other state currently mandates the display of the Ten Commandments in schools, although Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said recently that his state would pass a bill like the one approved in Louisiana.

Louisiana legislators have said that they expected the law to be challenged but that more recent Supreme Court rulings indicate it will pass muster.

That includes a 2019 ruling in which justices determined that 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.’”

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican who signed the bill into law, said that he looked forward to being sued over the statute. Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, another Republican, who said she would defend the law in court, told news outlets in a statement she has not yet seen the new suit.

From The Epoch Times