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Families sue over Louisiana Ten Commandments classroom requirement


(NEW YORK) — A multifaith group of Louisiana families with children in public schools is suing to challenge Louisiana’s new law requiring all public school classrooms to display the Ten Commandments.

HB 71 mandates public schools — from kindergarten to the collegiate level — to display the Ten Commandments, a religious set of rules from the Old Testament, in every classroom on “a poster or framed document that is at least 11 inches by 14 inches.”

The suit, filed in federal court Monday, argues that the law violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, pointing to the Stone v. Graham case in which the court overturned a similar state law, holding that the separation of church and state bars public schools from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

The nine families — who are Jewish, Christian, Unitarian Universalist and nonreligious — also argue the law is religious coercion and violates their First Amendment rights. The parents represented include rabbis, pastors and reverends.

“Permanently posting the Ten Commandments in every Louisiana public school classroom – rendering them unavoidable – unconstitutionally pressures students into religious observance, veneration and adoption of the state’s favored religious scripture,” the complaint reads.

It continues, “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 or beliefs that are not aligned with the state’s religious preferences.”

Supporters of HB 71 argue that the law isn’t about religion: “This is not preaching a Christian religion. It’s not preaching any religion. It’s teaching a moral code,” the bill’s primary sponsor and Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton said during an April hearing, according to local news outlet WWL-TV.

The law argues that the Ten Commandments are also historically significant, reflecting “the understanding of the founders of our nation with respect to the necessity of civic morality to a functional self-government,” the text reads.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you gotta start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses,” Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry said last week during the press conference where he signed the bills.

The bill is one of 18 signed by Landry as part of his “Dream Big” education plan that aims to “bring back common sense in our classrooms,” he said in a recent statement.

Horton declined to comment. Landry and Attorney General Liz Murrill have not yet returned ABC News’ requests for comment.

Public schools have until January 2025 to display the poster, which will be paid for by private donations and not state dollars, according to the law. The law does not state what would happen if a school does not comply with the order.

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