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Louisiana sued over law making schools show Ten Commandments

June 25, 2024

A new Louisiana law requires all public schools in the state to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. But civil liberties groups say this violates the First Amendment of the US constitution.

The Ten Commandments in a classroom
The Ten Commandments from the Bible must be displayed in Louisiana public school classrooms by next yearImage: John Bazemore/AP Photo/picture alliance

American civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit against Louisiana on Monday after the state made it mandatory to display the Ten Commandments from the Bible in school classrooms.

The complaint was filed by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, all representing nine families with children enrolled in Louisiana public schools.

"The state's main interest in passing H.B. 71 was to impose religious beliefs on public school children, regardless of the harm to students and families," the lawsuit says.

It added that requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments violates the First Amendment of the US constitution and "simply cannot be reconciled with the fundamental religious-freedom principles that animated the founding of our nation."

What is the law about?

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signed the bill into law last Wednesday. It describes the Ten Commandments as "foundational documents of our state and national government." 

The bill stipulates that the Ten Commandments should be visible in every public school classroom, "large, easily readable font," by the start of next year. The costs must be covered by donations, not public funds.

Defendants in Monday's lawsuit include the Louisiana's Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley and other school officials.

In a statement, Brumley said that "it seems the ACLU only selectively cares about the First Amendment — 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."

But one of the plaintifs, Presbyterian Reverend Jeff Simms, described the law as "religious favoritism."

"This display sends a message to my children and other students that people of some religious domination are superior to others," said Sims, who also has three children in Louisiana public schools.

zc/jsi (AP, Reuters)