web analytics

Louisiana: Ten Commandments Back in the Classroom?

New legislation brings cheers and critics in equal measure.

Under a new bill that became state law on Wednesday, June 19, classrooms in Louisiana will be required to display a copy of the Ten Commandments. With legal challenges certain to follow, Governor Jeff Landry noted that he “can’t wait to be sued.” After the Supreme Court ruled more than 40 years ago that such displays violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, how do Pelican State lawmakers think this latest effort will differ in outcome?

A Brief History

In 1980, a five-to-four Supreme Court decision in Stone v. Graham ruled that by requiring the commandments to be displayed in schools, Kentucky violated the separation of church and state established by the First Amendment. More specifically, the court held that the statute failed the Lemon Test, a rubric based on the 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman.

The Lemon Test holds that to not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, a “statute must have a secular legislative purpose” and that “its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion,” and it cannot promote “an excessive government entanglement with religion.” The decision in Stone determined that Kentucky ran afoul of not having a “secular legislative purpose.” And this appears to be where Louisiana Republicans think they can tilt the scales.

The Secular Ten Commandments?

The law requires that from January 1, 2025, the commandments be displayed in all classrooms on a “poster or framed document that is at least eleven inches by fourteen inches” and that a context statement is included that explains why they are “a prominent part of American public education.”  The bill reads:

“Recognizing the historical role of the Ten Commandments accords with our nation’s history and faithfully reflects the understanding of the founders of our nation with respect to the necessity of civil morality to a functional self-government.

“History records that James Madison, the fourth President of the United States of America, stated that ‘(w)e have staked the whole future of our new nation . . . upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.’”

The four-paragraph context statement that must accompany each poster or document, says, in part, that the commandments have been “a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries.”

It also allows (but doesn’t require) other documents of historical note to be displayed, including the Declaration of Independence and the Mayflower Compact.

The Challengers

A joint statement by the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation released on Wednesday argued that: “The First Amendment promises that we all get to decide for ourselves what religious beliefs, if any, to hold and practice, without pressure from the government … Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools.”

New banner Liberty Nation Analysis 1The Center for Inquiry group wrote to Governor Landry in advance of the bill becoming law, urging him to veto its passage, stating that it “is an exclusionary, heavy-handed measure that will make every student who is a member of a minority religion (or no religion at all) feel like an outsider in their own school and virtually invite litigation at taxpayer expense.”

But Landry seems eager to invite challenges. Why is he so confident he will prevail?

SCOTUS Sympathies?

In 2023, the Supreme Court ruled in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District that football coach Joe Kennedy’s silent prayers on the field did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch side-stepped the Lemon Test, writing: “In place of Lemon and the endorsement test, this Court has instructed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by ‘reference to historical practices and understandings.’”

Making the case that the Ten Commandments can be viewed in a historical sense rather than a religious one could land on receptive ears – especially considering the composition of the court has changed since the Stone v. Graham decision. Other states also have similar legislation in the pipeline, including, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Louisiana appears to be the canary in the coal mine for such efforts.

Read More From Mark Angelides

Latest Posts

Dark Days for America – The World Reacts

In the hours following the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a rally in Butler,...

BREAKING: Trump Shot in the Ear at Rally

Former President Donald Trump was shot in the ear during his rally in Butler, PA. Three shots rang out, catching...

Corporate America’s Favorite President

Make the rich pay their fair share - it's a common rallying cry among progressives, and the current...

China Armed and on NATO’s Doorstep

It was just a matter of time before China threatened NATO. Having Indo-Pacific partner nations Australia, Japan,...