Louisiana Families Fight Against Ten Commandments Law in Schools

Nine Louisiana families have taken their fight against a new law requiring every public school classroom to display a poster of the Ten Commandments to federal court. This legal battle, which may go all the way to the US Supreme Court, raises important questions about the separation of church and state, religious freedom, and the role of morals in education.

The law in question, known as HB71, mandates that every classroom that receives state funding must display the biblical text of the Ten Commandments by 2025. The text must be prominently placed in a “large, easily readable font” on an 11 by 14-inch poster, making it the central focus of the display. Supporters of the law, including the Republican author Dodie Horton, argue that this move is necessary to bring back a “moral code” to schools.

However, the plaintiffs, backed by civil rights groups, argue that this requirement violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion. They claim that such a display pressures students to conform to the state’s favored religion and excludes those who do not subscribe to the Ten Commandments.

The lawsuit also calls into question the accuracy of a quote used in the law, attributed to James Madison, about the foundational importance of the Ten Commandments to the nation. The plaintiffs claim this quote is fabricated, undermining one of the central arguments for the law.

This legal battle is not new territory, as there have been similar challenges in the past. In the 1980 case Stone v Graham, the Supreme Court ruled against a Kentucky law that required displaying the Ten Commandments in schools, citing its religious nature and lack of secular purpose. This precedent could weigh heavily in the current lawsuit against the Louisiana law.

As this case unfolds, it brings to light important constitutional issues surrounding the intersection of religion and public education. It also underscores the ongoing debate over the role of morality and religious values in shaping school policies. Regardless of the outcome, the lawsuit signals a broader conversation about the boundaries between church and state in American society and the protection of religious freedom for all citizens.