Louisiana Advances Classroom Ten Commandments Display Bill Following SCOTUS Precedent

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House Bill 71, introduced by Republican legislators Rep. Dodie Horton and Sen. Adam Bass, will require Louisiana public schools to display the Ten Commandments. The bill was passed by the House Committee of Education on Saturday.

Horton & Bass assured committee members that their proposed law would be upheld despite concerns about its constitutional validity. Similar attempts in other states, such as Texas and South Carolina, have failed. However, the authors of HB 71 believe that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Kennedy v. Bremerton case has opened new possibilities for displays.

Bass Said:

The bill will pass legal and judicial scrutiny. It is hoped that the law will serve as an example to the rest of America.

The decision of 2022, which allowed a high school football coach to publicly pray following games, has been seen as setting a precedent for religious displays in public spaces.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for a majority of 6-3 that the clauses within the First Amendment

They are complementary. Both clauses protect religious expression.

Ronald Hackenberg, an attorney from the Pacific Justice Institute in Mississippi, gave legal advice to the committee. He explained that the Kennedy case was a departure from the Lemon test. This three-part Lemon standard was used by the courts to determine if a law violated the Establishment Clause. Hackenberg said that the Kennedy decision was a departure from Lemon, which used a three-part test to determine whether governmental actions or laws violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is against the bill. A’Niya Robinson is a strategist who argues in an interview that the details of the Kennedy case don’t apply to the bill. She also explains that the coach’s prayer after a game does not fall under his responsibilities as an employee and that the students aren’t required to participate.

Robinson Said:

Our framers knew that religious liberty would thrive only if people were allowed to choose which religions they wanted.

The committee approved House Bill 71 with a 10-3 vote. Both parties were represented in the committee. Barbara Freiberg (Republican) cast one of three votes against the bill to express her concern that it did not reflect all religions. Sylvia Taylor, D-Reserve, crossed party lines in support of the bill.

Horton has worked on religious displays in the past. She and Rep. Jack McFarland have passed a law last year requiring “In God, We Trust” signs to be displayed at every classroom. John Bel Edwards signed the law.

House Bill 71 is similar to the previous proposal and outlines requirements for displaying the Ten Commandments. It states that the Ten Commandments must be displayed on a poster or framed document measuring at least 11.25 by 14.25 inches with a large, easily readable type.