ACLU: Ten Commandments Law 'Blatantly Unconstitutional'

Civil rights group, others say they'll sue over Louisiana law mandating display in public schools
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2024 10:05 AM CDT
ACLU, Other Groups Will Sue Over Ten Commandments Law
Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signs bills related to his education plan on Wednesday in Lafayette, Louisiana.   (Brad Bowie/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

"I can't wait to be sued," Louisiana's Republican governor announced over the weekend, just days before signing a bill Wednesday requiring every public school classroom in the state to display the Bible's Ten Commandments. And now, the time has come. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation have announced their intention to sue to block enforcement of the "blatantly unconstitutional" House Bill 71, per the Louisiana Illuminator. The groups argue the law violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion or favoring one religion over another.

In 1980, the Supreme Court blocked a similar law in Kentucky, ruling it violated the First Amendment. "The law violates long-standing Supreme Court precedent and the First Amendment," the groups said in a joint statement, arguing the mandated displays "will result in unconstitutional religious coercion of students" and "send a chilling message to students and families who do not follow the state's preferred version of the Ten Commandments that they do not belong." "Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools," the statement adds. "Public schools are not Sunday schools," the ACLU wrote on X.

The law, however, contends the Ten Commandments have historical as well as religious significance and are "foundational documents of our state and national government," per ABC News. The bill's author, state GOP Rep. Dodie Horton, has argued the Ten Commandments form the basis of all laws in Louisiana, per CBS News. Supporters also claim the law doesn't promote a specific religion because it doesn't allow public dollars to fund displays, only donations, per the Illuminator. The law follows a 2022 Supreme Court decision that said a high school football coach who lost his job for praying on the field shouldn't have been fired. The court found the prayers amounted to private speech in a decision "legal experts predicted would allow more religious expression in public spaces," per CTV News. (More Louisiana stories.)

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