Louisiana Moves To Mandate Ten Commandments In Schools

Louisiana’s state legislature is moving legislation forward that will require the display of the Ten Commandments in public and charter school classrooms. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Dodie Horton (R) and State Sen. Adam Bass (R), passed through a critical committee with a 10-3 vote. The measure provides that the Ten Commandments must be shown in a framed display of at least 11 by 14 inches using a large and easily readable font.

Rep. Horton emphasized the universal and historical significance of the Ten Commandments, stating, “It deserves to be posted and for our children to see everything that God says is right and everything that he says is wrong.” The bill provides that the legislature finds that the Ten Commandments form the moral foundation upon which American law and values are built.

Horton was also instrumental in getting a new state law passed last year that requires public school classrooms in Louisiana to display signs bearing the national motto, “In God We Trust.”

The bill has some detractors. Concerns have been raised about whether it is constitutional and whether it will lead to “uncomfortable classroom discussions.” Some Democrats have argued that specific commandments could prompt sensitive questions from students, posing challenges for educators. However, the bill explicitly does not mandate teaching the Ten Commandments but only that they be displayed.

The measure comes after significant changes in legal precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2022 Kennedy v. Bremerton decision. The holding in that case upheld a high school football coach’s right to pray publicly and has been interpreted as a green light for more overt religious expressions in public spaces.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion in Kennedy for the 6-3 majority. He found that all First Amendment clauses “work in tandem.”

Gorsuch wrote, “Where the Free Exercise Clause protects religious exercises, whether communicative or not, the Free Speech Clause provides overlapping protection for expressive religious activities.”

The Louisiana Senate committee heard from Pacific Justice Institute attorney Ronald Hackenberg in support of the legislation. He discussed the Kennedy ruling and how it overruled earlier precedents regarding the public display of religious material.

As the legislation progresses, its implications will extend beyond Louisiana’s classrooms. Legal experts see it as a significant test for how broadly federal courts will construe the ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton.