Louisiana Parents Sue to Block Display of Ten Commandments in Schools - The World News

Louisiana Parents Sue to Block Display of Ten Commandments in Schools

A group of parents in Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit on Monday seeking to block a new state law requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in every public school classroom.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Jeff Landry last week and made Louisiana the only state with such a mandate, was widely expected to be challenged.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, one of the organizations representing the parents, has condemned the legislation as “blatantly unconstitutional.” But the law’s supporters were eager for a legal fight, which they hoped would bring the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. They were optimistic that the court’s conservative majority would support the mandate and overturn a 1980 ruling that struck down a similar law.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed on Monday in Federal District Court in Baton Rouge, La., are nine families with children in Louisiana public schools. They include two Unitarian Universalist families; a Presbyterian family; a Jewish family; an atheist family; and nonreligious families.

In the lawsuit, the families assert that having the Ten Commandments posted in every elementary, secondary and postsecondary public school classroom would render them unavoidable. As a result, according to the suit, the law “unconstitutionally pressures students into religious observance, veneration, and adoption of the state’s favored religious scripture.”

Supporters of the law have argued that the Ten Commandments are more than purely a religious text, and that it is a historical document that provided a framework for the nation’s laws.

“If you want to respect the rule of law,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said as he signed the legislation last week, “you’ve got to start from the original law giver, which was Moses.”

Under the law, the commandments must be posted in every public classroom by Jan 1. 2025, on posters that are no smaller than 11 inches by 14 inches. The commandments must also be “the central focus of the poster” and “in a large, easily readable font.” The posters will also include a three-paragraph statement asserting that the Ten Commandments were a “prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries.”

Beyond the historical value, the law’s supporters said, the commandments would serve as a positive moral influence for students.

The measure allows for “our children to look up and see what God says is right and what he says is wrong,” Dodie Horton, the Republican state representative who sponsored the legislation, told colleagues from the House floor. “It doesn’t preach a certain religion, but it definitely shows what a moral code we all should live by is.”

But the Rev. Jeff Sims, one of the parents involved in the lawsuit, said that the law sends “a contrary message of religious intolerance that one denomination or faith system is officially preferable to others, and that those who don’t adhere to it are lesser in worth and status.”

“As a pastor and father,” Mr. Sims, a pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in Covington, La., said in a statement, “I cannot, in good conscience, sit by silently while our political representatives usurp God’s authority for themselves and trample our fundamental religious-freedom rights.”

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