Deal Will Delay Classrooms' Displays of 10 Commandments

Judge in Louisiana agrees to a delay until at least November as lawsuit plays out
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 24, 2024 6:10 PM CDT
Updated Jul 19, 2024 4:05 PM CDT
Lawsuit Challenges Ten Commandments Law
A copy of the Ten Commandments is posted along with other historical documents in a hallway of the Georgia Capitol, on Thursday in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
UPDATE Jul 19, 2024 4:05 PM CDT

Louisiana will delay implementing a requirement that the Ten Commandments be placed in all of the state's public school classrooms until at least November, according to an agreement approved by a federal judge Friday, per the AP. The move follows the filing of a lawsuit by opponents who say the law violates First Amendment language forbidding government establishment of religion and guaranteeing religious liberty.

Jun 24, 2024 6:10 PM CDT

Civil liberties groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block Louisiana's new law requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom, a measure they contend is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs in the suit include parents of Louisiana public school children with various religious backgrounds, who are represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Under the legislation signed by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry last week, all public K-12 classrooms and state-funded universities will have to display a poster-size version of the Ten Commandments next year, the AP reports.

"This display sends a message to my children and other students that people of some religious dominations are superior to others," said the Rev. Jeff Simms, a Presbyterian pastor who is a plaintiff and father of three children in Louisiana public schools. "This is religious favoritism." Opponents argue that the law is a violation of separation of church and state and that the display will isolate students, especially those who are not Christian. Proponents say that the measure is not solely religious, but that it has historical significance. In the language of the law, the Ten Commandments are "foundational documents of our state and national government," per the AP.

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Plaintiff Joshua Herlands has two young children in New Orleans public schools who, like their father, are Jewish. There are multiple versions of the Ten Commandments, and Herlands said the version mandated for classroom walls does not align with the version from his faith. The Ten Commandments have long been at the center of lawsuits. In 1980, the US Supreme Court ruled that a similar Kentucky law violated the establishment clause of the US Constitution, which says Congress can "make no law respecting an establishment of religion." In a more recent ruling, the court held in 2005 that such displays in a pair of Kentucky courthouses violated the Constitution. Defendants in the Louisiana case include state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley, members of the state education board and some local school boards.

(More Louisiana stories.)

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