Controversial Ten Commandments Display Law Passes for Louisiana Classrooms

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jun 20, 2024

Louisiana recently enacted a law requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in all public school classrooms. Signed by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on June 19, 2024, this mandate includes classrooms from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

The posters must be in “large, easily readable font” and paired with a context statement.

Gov. Landry's Justification

Gov. Jeff Landry emphasized the historical significance of the Ten Commandments, stating, “If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses.”

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He argues that these commandments are foundational documents for American governance, not just religious symbols.

Funding Through Donations

The new law specifies that state funds will not be used to implement the mandate. Instead, the posters will be financed through donations.

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This approach aims to avoid the use of taxpayer money and ensure the initiative is supported by voluntary contributions.

Additional Historical Documents

Apart from the Ten Commandments, the law also authorizes the display of other historical documents in K-12 schools.

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These include the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance. However, displaying these documents is not mandatory.

Opposition and Legal Challenges

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation have vowed to challenge the law in court.

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They argue that the mandate infringes on the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and creates an exclusionary environment for students of different beliefs.

Historical Precedent

This is not the first time such a law has faced legal challenges.

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In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional, violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This precedent highlights the legal battles Louisiana’s new law is likely to face.


Gov. Landry's Conservative Agenda

This law reflects a broader conservative shift in Louisiana under Gov. Landry, who took office in January 2024.

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With a GOP supermajority in the Legislature, Republicans have successfully pushed through various conservative measures, including this controversial law.


Context Statement Requirement

The posters must include a four-paragraph context statement, explaining the historical role of the Ten Commandments in American public education.

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This statement is intended to provide educational context and emphasize the commandments’ historical significance over their religious aspects.


Reactions from Civil Rights Groups

Civil rights groups argue that the law will prevent students from receiving an equal education and make schools unsafe for those with different beliefs.

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They emphasize that even within Christianity, interpretations of the Ten Commandments can vary, complicating the law’s implementation.


Impact on Louisiana’s Education System

The law’s impact on Louisiana’s education system remains to be seen. Supporters believe it will instill historical awareness, while opponents fear it will create division and legal complications.

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The outcome of the impending legal battles will be crucial in determining the law’s future.


Similar Bills in Other States

Similar bills have been proposed in Texas, Oklahoma, and Utah, but none have become law due to legal challenges.

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Louisiana’s success in passing this law sets a precedent, but it also faces the same constitutional scrutiny that halted similar efforts in other states.


Looking Ahead

As Louisiana prepares for potential legal battles, the national debate over religious symbols in public spaces continues.

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The outcome of this controversy will likely influence future legislation in other states, shaping the intersection of education, governance, and religious expression in America.