Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Louisiana parents sue over placing Ten Commandments in schools

By 37ci3 Jun25,2024

Nine Louisiana families filed a federal lawsuit Monday against their state’s education department and local school boards challenging the constitutionality of a radical new law. The Ten Commandments should be displayed in public school classrooms.

The lawsuit was announced less than a week after Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry put pen to paper and announced his situation. first in the country Requiring all public schools to display Christian commandments in classrooms since the Supreme Court declared such a requirement unconstitutional more than 40 years ago.

It is claimed that Jewish, Christian, Unitarian Universalist and secular families in court documents In an appeal to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, the new law “substantially interferes with and burdens parents’ right to raise their children in the religion of their choice.”

Jeff Landry speaks during CPAC
Jeff Landry. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images file

Also, the complaint states that the new law “pressures students to practice religious practices, worship, and accept state-approved religious books.”

“It also sends a harmful and religiously divisive message that students who do not subscribe to the Ten Commandments . . . do not belong in their school community and should refrain from expressing any faith practices or beliefs that do not align with the state’s religious preferences.”

Two of the plaintiffs are members of the clergy: the Rev. Darcy Roak, a Unitarian Universalist minister, and the Presbyterian Rev. Jeff Simms.

Simms said at a news conference: “By favoring one version of the Ten Commandments and mandating that it be published in public schools, the government is intruding on deeply personal matters of religion. This is religious favoritism that goes against my religion and my faith.”

Roake, whose husband is Jewish, said during the press conference that they raised their children in both religions and enrolled them in New Orleans public schools, seeking “a secular education that does not promote any religion.”

Joshua Herlands said that as “an American and a Jew” he was horrified that “state legislators are forcing public schools to put a special version of the Ten Commandments in every classroom.”

“These demonstrations distort the Jewish significance of the Ten Commandments and send a disturbing message to students that one set of religious laws trumps all others,” Herlands said. “Politicians have no business instilling their religious beliefs in my children.”

Parents are supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Religious Freedom Foundation. They are represented pro bono Simpson Thacher and Bartlett law firm.

Attorney Jonathan Youngwood said the case has already been assigned to a federal judge in Baton Rouge and they are requesting a hearing this summer “to ensure this law is never implemented.”

NBC News has reached out to the Louisiana governor’s office for comment.

Landry, a conservative Republican, he said at the signing ceremony of the bill The state will fight any legal challenges on Wednesday.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you have to start with the first lawgiver, Moses,” Landry said.

Landry also has the support of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wrote on the social media platform On Friday, the entire country must comply with the Ten Commandments being allowed in Louisiana’s public schools.

In the coming days, Landry is also expected to sign a bill that would prohibit kindergarten through 12th grade teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation. It was modeled after a Florida law derided by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Both Louisiana bills were introduced State Rep. Dodie Horton, a Republican from rural Haughton, Louisiana. NBC News has reached out to Horton for comment on the lawsuit.

Horton has made no apologies for pushing religion, particularly Christianity, into public schools.

“I am not interested in an atheist. I’m not interested in a Muslim,” Horton, a Southern Baptist, said. He said during a House debate in April. “I want our children to see what God’s law is.”

Democratic strategist James Carville, whose family has roots in Cajun country, recently described Horton as a “foot soldier of Christian nationalists” in an interview with NBC.

“This is a group of people who believe that the Constitution was written for and by Christians and that the First Amendment applies only to Christians,” Carville said.

Carville said he believes it’s more than just the Ten Commandments.

“This is the beginning of a long, long war that could end up in the Supreme Court.”

Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that classroom displays of the Ten Commandments were unconstitutional, the current panel includes six conservative justices and three liberal justices.

“They think they can fight this lawsuit better,” Carville said.

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of the United States for Separation of Church and State, agreed.

“Christian nationalists, not just in Louisiana, but across the country, are trying to infiltrate our public schools and force everyone to live by their faith,” Lazer said in a statement after the lawsuit.

William Snowden, an associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, said Landry’s statement last week that he expected to be sued showed he was “aware of the legal challenges of such a bill.”

But Snowden said he’s not sure the governor can make an argument that the law benefits all Louisianans, regardless of their religious affiliation.

“It strategically tries to place the debate about whether the Ten Commandments or Christian beliefs are positive and good values, when in fact it is not about these values, but rather about the affirmation and support of religious doctrine. by the government,” Snowden said.

The professor added that it “removes the long-accepted separation between church and state.”

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