Louisiana Faces Legal Challenge Over Ten Commandments Display Law In Schools

The state of Louisiana is facing a lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) following the enactment of a new law that requires public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom. This law, signed by Republican Governor Jeff Landry last week, makes Louisiana the first state to enforce such a mandate, although Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has expressed intentions to implement a similar law.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU along with ACLU Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, claims that the law violates the First Amendment and infringes upon parental rights in shaping the religious education of their children. The plaintiffs argue that the law imposes a specific religious viewpoint, alienating students who do not follow the Ten Commandments.

“It also sends the harmful and religiously divisive message that students who do not subscribe to the Ten Commandments — or, more precisely, to the specific version of the Ten Commandments that H.B. 71 requires schools to display — do not belong in their own school community and should refrain from expressing any faith practices or beliefs that are not aligned with the state’s religious preferences,” the lawsuit contends.

The civil rights coalition is representing nine families with diverse religious backgrounds, including Jewish, Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and non-religious beliefs. Among these families, plaintiffs Jennifer Harding and Benjamin Owens, who are nonreligious, argue that the government should not impose religious scriptures on their children. “The State of Louisiana should not direct a religious upbringing of our child and require students to observe the state’s preferred religious doctrine in every classroom,” they told The Hill.

The Louisiana law stipulates that classrooms must display the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font,” but does not require students to adhere to these religious principles. Proponents of the law argue that the Ten Commandments are of historical significance and foundational to the country’s legal system.

In a statement on Monday, Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill criticized the ACLU for what she described as selective advocacy for First Amendment rights. “It doesn’t care when the Biden administration censors speech or arrests pro-life protesters, but apparently it will fight to prevent posters that discuss our own legal history,” Murrill said.

The lawsuit raises significant questions about the separation of church and state and the appropriateness of religious displays in public institutions. As the legal battle unfolds, it will likely attract widespread attention and could influence similar legislative efforts in other states.

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