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Louisiana Faces Lawsuit Over New Law Mandating Ten Commandments in Schools

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Louisiana is bracing for a legal battle after Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed a controversial law requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in all public school classrooms, from kindergarten through college. Civil liberties groups have swiftly announced plans to challenge the law’s constitutionality.

The new rule, House Bill 71, mandates that the Ten Commandments be displayed in a “large, easily readable font” on posters or framed documents measuring at least 11 inches by 14 inches in every classroom accepting state funding.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its Louisiana chapter, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have jointly declared their intent to sue the state over the law.

In a statement, the civil liberties groups argued that the law:

“Violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional. 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.”

Supporters of the legislation, however, contend that it serves a historical purpose rather than a religious one. The law describes the Ten Commandments as “foundational documents of our state and national government” and requires a contextual statement explaining their role in American public education for nearly three centuries.

Proponents also point to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of a Washington state football coach who was fired for praying on the field after games. The conservative-leaning court sided with the coach, signaling a potential shift away from the long-standing “Lemon test” used to determine violations of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion.

The plaintiffs in the anticipated lawsuit, however, maintain that the Louisiana law contravenes the Supreme Court’s 1980 ruling in Stone v. Graham, which struck down a similar Kentucky statute requiring the Ten Commandments in classrooms, deeming it an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Louisiana’s law, which takes effect on January 1, 2025, does not include penalties for non-compliance. Still, it has reignited debates over the separation of church and state, with civil liberties advocates vowing to challenge what they see as an unconstitutional imposition of religious doctrine in public schools.

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