New Louisiana Law Requires Ten Commandments Be Displayed in All Classrooms

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
June 19, 2024US News
New Louisiana Law Requires Ten Commandments Be Displayed in All Classrooms
A Ten Commandments memorial rests in the lobby of the rotunda of the State Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala., in 2022. (Gary Tramontina/Getty Images)

Louisiana has become the first state to enact a law mandating that the Ten Commandments be prominently displayed at all public schools and colleges.

Under a bill that became law on June 18, Louisiana schools that receive state funds will have to display the Ten Commandments “in each building it uses and classroom in each school under its jurisdiction.”

The bill specifies that the text must be presented at the main focal point of a poster or framed document measuring at least 11 inches by 14 inches and printed in a “large and easily readable font.”

It also requires a 200-word “context statement” explaining that the Ten Commandments were “a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries.”

The Republican-backed measure passed the state Senate by a 30–8 margin on May 16. It reached Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk after receiving a final House approval in a 79–16 vote on May 28.

The measure was spearheaded by Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton. Last year, she successfully led a legislative effort to require the national motto “In God We Trust” to be displayed in classrooms across the state.

More than a dozen states have enacted laws mandating or explicitly allowing schools to display the phrase, but the Louisiana law goes one step further to require signage to be displayed in each individual classroom.

The Establishment Clause Debate

In 1980, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky law requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom, holding that the law signaled the government endorsement of “a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths” in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments,” the high court’s 5–4 majority wrote at the time. “However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.”

In recent years, the Supreme Court appears to have become more open to a less restrictive interpretation of the Establishment Clause while placing greater emphasis on the country’s history and tradition.

In defense of her Ten Commandments measure, Ms. Horton has highlighted the text’s historical significance, arguing that the bill honors its unique place in Louisiana’s history. In the law’s language, the Ten Commandments are described as “foundational documents of our state and national government.”

“The Ten Commandments are the basis of all laws in Louisiana,” she said on the House floor in April. “And 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.”

“It doesn’t preach a certain religion, but it definitely shows what a moral code that we all should live by is,” she said.

Last year, the Texas Senate approved similar bill, however, it bill died after the House failed to vote on it before a deadline passed.

A Utah bill, meanwhile, would have required all of the state’s public schools to “display a poster or framed copy” of the Ten Commandments in a “prominent location” in every one of their buildings. The bill has since been changed to instead allow the biblical principles to be taught as part of school curricula.

From The Epoch Times