The new law requires all Louisiana public school classrooms to display the Ten Commandments

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move by the GOP-dominated Legislature to advance a conservative agenda under the new governor.

The legislation, signed Wednesday by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, would require a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easy-to-read font” in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you have to start with the original lawgiver, which is Moses,” who received the commandments from God, Landry said.

Opponents questioned the law’s constitutionality and vowed to challenge it in court. Supporters said the move was not religious, but had historical significance. In the language of the law, the Ten Commandments are “fundamental documents of our state and national government.”

The posters must be in classrooms by early 2025, accompanied by a four-paragraph “contextual statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “have been a staple of American public education for nearly three centuries.”

Under the law, state funds will not be used to implement the mandate. Posters are paid for by donations.

The law “recognizes” but does not require the display of other materials in K-12 public schools, including: The Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 and often referred to as America’s “first constitution.” The Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance, which paved the way for new states to join the Union in the Northwest Territory – today’s Midwest.

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Shortly after the governor signed the bill at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette on Wednesday, civil rights groups and organizations seeking to keep religion out of government vowed to file a lawsuit against it.

The law prevents students from receiving an equal education and makes children of different faiths feel unsafe in school, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a joint statement Wednesday. Afternoon.

“Even among those who believe in some version of the Ten Commandments, the specific text they adhere to may differ by religion or tradition. The government should not take sides in this theological debate,” the groups said.

The controversial legislation, tucked into the Bible Belt, comes in a new era of conservative leadership in Louisiana under Landry, who replaced two-term Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in January. The GOP holds a majority in the Legislature, and Republicans hold every statewide elected office, paving the way for a conservative agenda for lawmakers.

Similar bills have been proposed in other states that would require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in classrooms. Texas, Oklahoma and Utah. However, due to threats of legal battles over the constitutionality of such measures, no state except Louisiana succeeded in enacting the bills.

Legal battles over displaying the Ten Commandments in classrooms are not new.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional and violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The High Court found that the Act did not have a secular purpose but served a religious purpose.

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Associated Press reporter Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina contributed.

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The story has been edited to make clear that the governor’s action is not running out of time. The governor signed the bill on Wednesday.

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