A student walks past the Ten Commandments displayed on school grounds
(Mike Simons/Getty)

A New Louisiana Law Forces Public Schools To Display the Ten Commandments

A new Louisiana law will require all public schools in the state to display the Ten Commandments, which is a blatant violation of the separation of church and state.

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In the United States, the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution makes the separation of church and state very clear as it declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The country upholds the rights of every citizen to practice any religion they wish, but the government remains neutral and refuses to endorse a single religion or promote religion in general, and through court rulings, the clause has come to be applied to state and local forms of government, as well. Since public schools are government entities, the establishment clause also applies to them. However, this has not stopped many Christians and Republicans from continually trying to insert religion into schools.

Christian nationalism has been gaining steam recently, as the majority of Republicans want to declare the United States a Christian nation. As a result, challenges to the separation of church and state have been increasing. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing a coach at a public school to lead his team in prayer on the field. Additionally, many right-wing states have passed legislation and utilized censorship to promote a faith-based interpretation of curriculum. For example, Texas has redacted chapters of science textbooks while quietly instilling reading programs brimming with religious material. Even so, Louisiana’s latest defiance of separation of church and state is surprisingly bold.

Louisiana passes bill to put the Ten Commandments in schools

Louisiana recently passed House Bill 71, making it the first state in the nation to require public schools to display the Ten Commandments by law. By 2025, every school that receives state funding, including colleges and universities, will have to put up posters of the Ten Commandments. The bill even details the exact size requirements and language the posters must utilize. They must be 11 inches by 14 inches and include a Protestant translation of the Ten Commandments and a four-paragraph “context statement” highlighting the Ten Commandments’ “prominent” history in American public education.

In addition, the bill prohibits schools from using state funding to finance the posters. Instead, the schools will have to pull from their own funds or donations to meet the requirement. While several states have proposed similar legislation, Louisiana is the only state where the bill successfully became law. Naturally, numerous civil liberties groups have already condemned the law and promised to file a lawsuit to stop it from going into effect.

The law has a good chance of being struck down as unconstitutional because similar cases have already played out in the past. In 2002, an appeals court ordered four Ohio schools to remove their public displays of the Ten Commandments on school grounds, ruling that the displays violated the Constitution. The Ten Commandments are a religious set of precepts revered as a moral foundation in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and come directly from the Bible. Needless to say, if public schools promote the Ten Commandments, they are promoting religion and directly defying the government’s necessity to remain neutral.

One also can’t help but notice how hypocritical the law is. After all, Louisiana is quite big on book banning and has attacked books about Black history, women’s history, and the LGBTQ+ community in schools. Republicans often argue that acknowledging the existence of the LGBTQ+ community in schools is “indoctrination,” yet support public displays of religion in schools. Similarly, some Republicans say that children can’t be taught about slavery and racism because it will make them feel bad about themselves. Yet, they support promoting an unrealistic set of rules to children, which the Bible declares they are sinners and unworthy of heaven if they break.

The bill also highlights the double standard that often crops up in the separation of church and state. In some states, teachers aren’t even allowed to wear hijabs because they’re considered “religious garb.” However, in other states, the Supreme Court backs coaches in prayer with students on school grounds, and governors are demanding that every school display the Christian interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Certain religions are required to follow an extreme interpretation of the Constitution, while religions like Christianity often find loopholes in the clause. Hopefully, legal challenges to Louisana’s law will prove effective in demonstrating that Christianity is not an exception to the Constitution.

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.