New Lawsuit Tries to Quickly Halt Louisiana’s Religious Push in Public Schools

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jul 09, 2024

A new lawsuit is trying to quickly halt Louisiana’s newest religious push in public schools, as the state government has recently passed a law that requires all public schools in Louisiana to display the Ten Commandments.

This lawsuit is brought forth by various organizations on behalf of nine Louisiana families that are of multiple faiths.

Louisiana’s New Religious Law

Last month, Louisiana’s Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed House Bill 71 into law. This law forces all public schools in the state to display a state-approved version of the Ten Commandments.

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This poster-sized display must contain “large, easily readable font.” All classrooms in all public schools — from kindergarten to university classes at state-funded institutions — must have these posters.

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Critics Attack New Louisiana Law

Quickly after this bill was signed into law, many people in the state — and around the country — came out to blast what Louisiana was forcing its public schools to do.

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These critics have claimed that this law violates the First Amendment. It also goes against the precedent of separating church from state.

A New Lawsuit

Now, a new lawsuit is targeting this law and trying to have it halted before the fall school session begins.

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This lawsuit was filed in June in federal court by the ACLU of Louisiana, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. These organizations have filed this suit on behalf of nine different “multi-faith families” in Louisiana.

Halting the Law

As this court case proceeds, the plaintiffs of this suit are asking for the law to be halted. They’ve filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which asks the court to block this Ten Commandments law from fully going into effect.

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The law mandates that these posters be in every single classroom in Louisiana by January 1, 2025. This suit is asking for this to be halted as legal proceedings are ongoing.

An Unconstitutional Law

These plaintiffs in this case have argued that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional, as it violates both the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent.

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The plaintiffs also argue that posting the Ten Commandments in every single classroom in all public schools thereby makes these posters “unavoidable”, which further pressures students to observe only one religion.

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The State’s Favored Religion

To these plaintiffs, this completely goes against the separation of church and state.

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The suit alleges that this legislation “unconstitutionally pressures students into religious observance, veneration, and adoption of the state’s favored religious scripture.”

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Only Following One Version of the Ten Commandments

The complaint also details how the state is forcing students to only follow one religious scripture — and one version of this scripture.

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The suit says, “It also sends the harmful and religiously divisive message that students who do not subscribe to the Ten Commandments — or, more precisely, to the specific version of the Ten Commandments that H.B. 71 requires schools to display — do not belong in their own school community and should refrain from expressing any faith practices of beliefs that are not aligned with the state’s religious preferences.”

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Louisiana’s Response

Louisiana officials who are in support of this Ten Commandments law have responded to this lawsuit.

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Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley, who is named in this suit, said, “The Ten Commandments law passed with overwhelming support in Louisiana’s state legislature and was enthusiastically signed by our Governor. I look forward to implementing the law and defending Louisiana’s sovereign interest to select classroom content fundamental to America’s foundation.”

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Other States Follow Suit

Louisiana isn’t the only state to make religious pushes into their public schools. Oklahoma has recently made more than a few attempts to do the same.

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However, Oklahoma hasn’t been successful in these moves in the legal court system. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot give public funds to a religious charter school. This, therefore, blocked the state’s attempt to establish the country’s first publicly funded religious charter school.

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Oklahoma’s Latest Attempt

After this attempt failed once it reached the Oklahoma Supreme Court, officials within the state tried another way to push religion into public schools.

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Just last month, Ryan Walters, the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, sent out a memo stating that schools are now required to incorporate the Bible and the Ten Commandments into their classes and curriculum.

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New Religious Laws

According to Walters, the Bible is an “indispensable historical and cultural touchstone” in American history. Thus, he wants it included in school lesson plans.

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This move has already been blasted by critics, as again they believe that it violates the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. These new religious laws will likely continue to be battled out in the court systems for the foreseeable future.

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