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Louisiana set to proudly display the Ten Commandments in classrooms and on college campuses
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Louisiana set to proudly display the Ten Commandments in classrooms and on college campuses

It's now up to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry to ratify the legislation reaffirming the significance of Judeo-Christian morality in American life.

Louisiana state Rep. Dodie Horton (R) succeeded last year in getting House Bill 8 enacted, such that all public schools in the state are now required to display "In God We Trust" in every classroom.

Evidently keen to retake more ground lost after decades of secularizing efforts, Horton introduced legislation early this year that would require K-12 public schools, colleges, and universities to display the Ten Commandments on campus and in the classroom.

In April, the Louisiana House voted 82-19 for Horton's House Bill 71. On Thursday, the Louisiana Senate voted 30-8 in favor of the bill after it had undergone multiple changes aimed at preempting various legal challenges.

All eight state Senate votes in opposition to the bill were cast by Democrats. The Advocate reported that Sen. Royce Duplessis (D), among them, was the only to speak out in opposition to HB 71.

"I didn't have to learn the Ten Commandments in school. We went to Sunday school," said Duplessis. "You want your kids to learn about the Ten Commandments, take them to church."

Duplessis further suggested that the bill would expose Louisiana to lawsuits, stating, "We're going to spend valuable state resources defending the law when we really need to be teaching our kids how to read and write."

According to Nola.com, ratification of the bill would make Louisiana the first state to mandate the display of the Ten Commandments in the classroom.

The legislation would require every public school governing authority and the governing authority of each nonpublic school that receives state funds to display the Ten Commandments "in each building it uses and classroom in each school under its jurisdiction."

While each governing authority will have some latitude concerning the nature of the display, at a minimum, the Ten Commandments must feature prominently in a framed document at least 11 inches by 14 inches.

The text is to read: "The Ten Commandments[:] I AM the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven images. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

Anticipating legal challenges, state Sen. Jay Morris added amendments to the original bill highlighting the U.S. Supreme Court's recognition in 2005 that "it is permissible to display the Ten Commandments on government property."

In a 5-4 decision, the court found in Van Orden v. Perry that "simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the establishment clause."

Morris noted also that the Louisiana Legislature previously enabled the secretary of state to publish the Ten Commandments "and other historically significant documents for posting in court houses and other public buildings to address 'a need to educate and inform the public as to the history and background of American and Louisiana law.'"

After noting the Supreme Court's 2019 recognition of the Ten Commandments' significance, Morris added, "Including the Ten Commandments in the education of our children is part of our state and national history, culture, and tradition."

In addition to exempting private schools, the amended bill also requires that the Ten Commandments be displayed with a "context statement" indicating that the Commandments "were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries," "were also included in public school textbooks published by educator William McGuffey," and "also appeared in textbooks published by Noah Webster."

In the spirit of including documents of historic importance in the classroom, the amended bill also provides for the display of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance.

Lea Patterson, senior council with the First Liberty Institute, suggested to Nola.com that the amendments will serve to strengthen the bill when scrutinized by a court.

"It's generally accepted in many legal cases that the Ten Commandments has historical significance," said Patterson, "and that its display is consistent with history and tradition, which is the governing legal test in such matters."

The ACLU, which has fought ardently to ensure that LGBT propaganda and pride displays can be exhibited in school settings, made clear it is opposed to having any traces of biblical morality in the classroom.

"No federal court has upheld the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools, regardless of context," Heather Weaver, senior staff attorney at the ACLU told Nola.com. "There's a good reason for that too: Public schools shouldn't be used to religiously indoctrinate or convert students."

The ACLU, the ACLU of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the anti-Christian Freedom from Religion Foundation, released a joint statement Friday calling the bill "unconstitutional."

Blaze News reached out to Horton for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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