Top NewsExperts say the Louisiana Ten Commandments law tests religiously...

Experts say the Louisiana Ten Commandments law tests religiously friendly courts


Louisiana’s law requiring the Ten Commandments in every classroom will test a new legal environment created by the Supreme Court, which threw out previous standards protecting the separation of church and state, experts said Thursday.

The law, signed Wednesday by Gov. Jeff Landry (R), is the first of its kind in the country since 1980, and the moderate Supreme Court ruled a similar Kentucky law unconstitutional. The new law gives schools until Jan. 1 to display the Ten Commandments “on a poster or framed document at least eleven inches by fourteen inches” in every classroom. The law states that commands should be the “central focus” of the display and “printed in large, easily readable font.”

On Thursday, as legal experts debated how courts should view the Louisiana law, various religious leaders in the state expressed excitement and concern about what the Ten Commandments predict.

Advocates for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU said they plan to file a lawsuit next week against the new law.

“It’s true that the Supreme Court hasn’t been the best on church-state issues, but we think it’s a bridge. Nothing they remotely said would allow the Ten Commandments into every classroom where students are captive audiences and required to participate,” said a staff member at the ACLU’s Freedom of Religion and Belief Program. Attorney Heather Weaver said.

Some outside experts on church-state law are less certain.

“Right now we’re in uncharted territory,” said Michael Helfand, a professor focusing on religion and ethics at Pepperdine University’s law school.

Efforts to infuse religion into government institutions, including public schools, have increased over the past decade as the Supreme Court has sided with those who want less restrictions on religion. State lawmakers, particularly in conservative areas, have introduced hundreds of bills that aim to include everything from public school chaplains and “In God We Trust” signs at school entrances to public funding of religious schools through vouchers.

The Louisiana law is part of a new set of measures stemming from a 2022 Supreme Court ruling in favor of a high school football coach whose contract was not renewed because of a prayer he made after a play at the 50-yard line. rule in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District It threw out the test that had been used for more than 50 years to determine whether a law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

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The Lemon test, named after a 1971 Supreme Court decision, asked questions like: Does the law “entangle excessive government with religion?” or “Does law promote or inhibit religion?” In the Football Coaches case, the Supreme Court said the lemon test is no longer good law and that judges must instead look to “history and tradition.”

Noting that Bramerton The coach’s actions were deemed unconstitutional, the ACLU’s Weaver said in a statement that the rationale was different from the Louisiana law. Because his prayers were not delivered to a “general” or “captive” audience, the court said.

“Regardless of the lemon test, there has always been an understanding in this country that the government should not favor one religion or one religion over others. Here, the government not only mandates the Ten Commandments, but also dictates which version the law says, and lays out the text,” Weaver said.

The law calls for a specific Protestant text based on the King James Bible, which differs from the versions used by Catholics, Jews and others, less than those used by other religions with their own texts of faith.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-chair of Freedom From Religion, said the new law is “overwhelming.”

“The religious right, Christian nationalist types and their legal paraphernalia have been clamoring ever since Bramerton The conclusion is that somehow the whole paradigm of anti-religion in public schools has been turned upside down. This is not the case,” she said. “The Supreme Court is captured under Trump, but it’s my belief that it’s not willing to go that far.”

“At our establishment, there was no history of the Ten Commandments in the Constitution, and a lot of ignorant people might think there was,” he said, calling the law “antithetical to the Bill of Rights.”

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Pepperdine’s Helfand says it’s true that the Founding Fathers invoked the Bible and the Ten Commandments when America was born, but they still called for people to worship or not worship as they pleased. Now the legal debate may turn to the question of coercion, he said. When is a person forced to practice a religion they do not accept? Does that include seeing the Ten Commandments on their classroom wall?

“You still can’t prefer one religion over another,” Helfand said.

John Inazu, a religion and law expert at Washington University in St. Louis, noted that the Supreme Court, which struck down a similar law in 1980, was operating under a different legal approach. The earlier case, he wrote in an email, “was decided under a very different approach to the establishment rule. The Supreme Court then focuses on history, text and tradition. But it’s not clear to me that the Louisiana law survives even under the new framework.

Placing this version of the Ten Commandments in classrooms is not a long-standing relic or tradition, Inazu wrote, and is “blatantly religious and monotheistic.”

He noted that in 2005 the Supreme Court upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin. However, the monument is separate from the Capitol, with an American flag and Star of David and the seal of the civic group that donated it. The court held that the memorial had a secular purpose and did not constitute state recognition of religion.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of post-Bramerton Bills aimed at promoting religion in public schools are an attempt to pass a Ten Commandments measure similar to the one in Texas last year in Louisiana. It passed the state Senate, but was not taken up by the House. But its supporters gave voice to Americans who see the Supreme Court as righting the American ship after half a century of wrongful separation of church and state.

“The separation of God and government is absolutely not there, and that’s what these bills are. It’s confusing; it’s not real,” Texas state Sen. Mayes Middleton (R), who co-sponsored the Texas bill, said last year.

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One of the authors of the Louisiana law said the measure was not about religion — or, he said, the Ten Commandments.

“It’s our basic law. Our sense of right and wrong is based on the Ten Commandments,” state Rep. Michael Bayham (R) told The Washington Post. He believes Moses was a historical figure, not just a religious one.

Opponents of the new bills say they reflect a country This leads to a new, dangerous phase in the balance of church and state, which in some places those in power are seeking To assert a version of Christian supremacy.

“Look, I love Jesus and the scriptures, but not this. Raise a glass to L.A. looking like a fool on the national stage,” Rev. Michael Allelo, a Catholic priest in Baton Rouge, Published Wednesday at X. “How much taxpayer money will be wasted defending this in the courts, only to have it overturned?”

But Baton Rouge Pentecostal pastor Rev. Tony Spell said the new law was an extension of his. 2022 success Louisiana’s Supreme Court Fights Pandemic Restrictions Judges dropped charges against him for presiding over religious gatherings in defiance of lockdown orders.

“We have a conservative court in Washington, but really it’s about the people, the warriors, the fighters,” Spell said.

Movements to incorporate Christianity into every area of ​​life have only grown since his court battle, he said. Now he’s working with groups to raise money for Ten Commandments posters they hope will soon be in classrooms across the state.

Asked what the new law would say to non-Christians or those who don’t subscribe to that version of the Ten Commandments, Spell said: “Being guilty is a choice.”

Mark Chauncey, a Southern Methodist University professor who studies the use of the Bible in public schools, said the Supreme Court has ushered the country into a new era.

“It’s the wild west when it comes to state-sponsored religion,” he said, adding: “It’s not clear how these things will play out.”

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