National News

Lawsuit Challenges Louisiana Law Requiring Classrooms to Display Ten Commandments

Stone tablets depicting the Ten Commandments are shown outside the Supreme Court in Washington June 27, 2005, placed there during a vigil by a religious group. In Louisiana, Public school classrooms will now be required to display the Ten Commandments by the start of 2025 as part of a new educational reform law signed by Gov. Jeff Landry June 19, 2024. (Photo: OSV News/Jason Reed, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Less than a week after the Louisiana governor signed a bill into law requiring all public school classrooms in the state to display the Ten Commandments, civil liberties groups representing parents of Louisiana schoolchildren from different religious backgrounds filed a lawsuit against it, calling it unconstitutional.

Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents on June 24 attempting to block the law signed on June 19 by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, who is Catholic.

The governor signed the law at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette, Louisiana, as part of an educational reform law called the “Dream Big” Education Plan that included 18 school-related bills from a voucher scholarship program called GATOR — for “Give All a True Opportunity to Rise” — to removing COVID vaccine requirements in schools, requiring parental consent for the use of preferred pronouns, putting limitations on discussion of gender and sexuality, and providing teacher compensation and retirement.

In a statement from the governor’s office about the education package, the Ten Commandments was listed second to last, but it may have gained the most public attention across the country. 

The commandments were also not mentioned on social media posts by the school that hosted the governor nor by the bishop who welcomed him to the school, Lafayette Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel.

In welcoming the governor, Bishop Deshotel praised the new scholarship legislation, saying: “Parents play a crucial role as their children’s first educators and should have the freedom to select the schools where their children receive education.” 

The Ten Commandments law, which goes into effect in 2025, requires that the commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, on a poster or framed document in a “large, easily readable font.”

The new law also established the wording to be used in the commandments, from the King James version of the Bible, but not with the full scriptural text.

Opponents of the required display say it will isolate students, especially those who are not Christian, while those who support it argue that the measure is not just religious but has historical significance as a founding document for state and national laws.

“This display sends a message to my children and other students that people of some religious denominations are superior to others,” said the Rev. Jeff Simms, a Presbyterian pastor who is a plaintiff in the suit and father of three children in Louisiana public schools. “This is religious favoritism,” he added, in a June 24 press conference announcing the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit is asking for a declaration from the court that the new law violates First Amendment clauses forbidding government establishment of religion and guaranteeing religious liberty, and it wants a court order prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms.

Posting of the Ten Commandments has faced previous lawsuits and now some are saying this case could also come to the nation’s high court.