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Louisiana Mandates Display of Ten Commandments in All Public Schools

July 2nd, 2024

A new law in Louisiana mandating that public classrooms display the Ten Commandments seeks to test the separation between church and state.

One of the most fascinating things about our nation is that each state has considerable freedom to set its own laws. When traveling from one end of the country to the other, you might experience drastically different regulations on things like traffic, self-defense, and divorce. However, one common characteristic across all States is the division between the church and the government. The United States Constitution clearly states in the first line of the Bill of Rights that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This would seem fairly straightforward, but a new law in Louisiana mandating that public classrooms display the Ten Commandments seeks to test the separation between church and state with the new conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court.

Louisiana is Now the Only State With Schools Legally Required to Display the Ten Commandments

In June 2024, it was reported that Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry had signed a new bill into law mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in all public schools. The law goes into considerable detail, with regulations on the size and font of the required posters. These posters must be at least 28 by 35.5 centimeters and include a statement asserting the traditional role of the Ten Commandments in the US education system. 

Louisiana’s Ten Commandments Law Has Sparked Widespread Controversy

Numerous parties have criticized this new bill. One prominent group is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which immediately promised to sue the state based on constitutional violations. Predictably, they point to the constitutional separation of church and state. The ACLU and other groups argue that politicians should not impose any religious doctrines on children. 

Interestingly, Kentucky attempted something very similar in 1980. After passing a bill mandating the posting of the 10 Commandments in schools, Kentucky encountered opposition from the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the nation’s highest court ruled 5-4 in Stone v. Graham that the law was unconstitutional. It seems likely that Louisiana will encounter the exact same legal hurdle. But can they overcome it with the new 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court?

Conservative States as Testing Grounds for Overturning Supreme Court Precedent

One has to remember that the Trump administration appointed a considerable number of Supreme Court judges during his administration. As a result, the Supreme Court is more conservative and open to the mixing of church and state that in has been in generations. This shift in the Supreme Court was the driving force behind the 50 year precedent of Roe v. Wade being overturned two years ago. 

Louisiana has already succeeded where other states have failed. According to ABC News, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah have all attempted to pass similar laws with no success. If any state has a chance of making this happen, it is Louisiana. 

One also has to consider the details of this law. A single, 30-centimeter poster isn’t exactly a domineering presence in a classroom. Indeed, many children will probably ignore it altogether. One should also note that the bill does not actually require teachers to educate their students about the Ten Commandments. 

These circumstances could lead to a situation in which the Supreme Court exerts a more forgiving approach than it has in the past. However, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this legal story at such an early stage. In the next few months and years, the ACLU lawsuit will provide us with further insights into this important case.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Each week, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy cases involving the required separation between church and state, free speech, LGBTQ+ rights and religious discrimination. Despite required Constitutional separation, many fear that the Supreme Court’s current majority could erode these rights. Our blog focuses on describing matters in a way that objectively examines both sides and which can be easily understood by readers. 

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