Louisiana Orders Ten Commandments Poster in Every Classroom

Legend, Jeff Landry, Republican Governor of Louisiana, signed the law on Wednesday.

  • Author, Max Matza
  • Role, BBC News

Every public school classroom in Louisiana has been ordered to display a poster of the Ten Commandments – a measure that civil liberties groups say they want to challenge.

The Republican-backed measure is the first of its kind in the United States and governs all classrooms up to the university level. Gov. Jeff Landry signed it Wednesday.

Christians view the Ten Commandments as God’s key rules on how to live.

The new law describes them as “fundamental” to state and national governance. But opponents say the law breaks America’s separation of church and state.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – known as the Establishment Clause – states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

State law requires that a poster include the sacred text in “large, easily readable print” on an 11-by-14-inch (28 cm by 35.5 cm) poster and that the commandments be “the focal point” of the display.

The commandments will also be presented alongside a four-paragraph “contextual statement” that will describe how the guidelines “have been an important part of American public education for nearly three centuries.”

The posters are to be displayed in all publicly funded classrooms by 2025 – but no public funding is proposed to fund the posters themselves.

Similar laws have recently been proposed by other Republican-led states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Utah.

Four civil liberties groups confirmed they plan to challenge the decision in court, highlighting the religious diversity of Louisiana schools.

The law was “patently unconstitutional,” according to a joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

But the bill’s author, Republican lawmaker Dodie Horton, spoke about the importance of reestablishing a “moral code” in classrooms. She was quoted as saying that “it’s like hope is in the air everywhere” even though the bill was approved without discussion by the governor.

There have already been numerous legal battles over the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, including courthouses, police stations and schools.

In 1980, the United States Supreme Court struck down a similar Kentucky law requiring the document to be displayed in elementary and secondary schools. This precedent has been cited by groups challenging the Louisiana law.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the requirement that the Ten Commandments be displayed “had no secular legislative purpose” and was “clearly religious in nature” – noting that the commandments referred to the worship of God.

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