Louisiana orders a Ten Commandments poster in every classroom

image caption, Louisiana’s Republican governor, Jeff Landry, signed the legislation into law on Wednesday

  • author, Max Matza
  • stock, BBC News

A poster of the Ten Commandments has been ordered to be displayed in every public school classroom in Louisiana — a move that civil rights groups say will be challenged.

The Republican-backed operation is the first of its kind in the United States and governs all classrooms up to the university level. Gov. Jeff Landry signed it Wednesday.

Christians see the Ten Commandments as God’s main rules for how to live.

The new law describes it as a “foundation” for state and national governance. But opponents say the law violates America’s separation of church and state.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution – known as the Establishment Clause – states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

State law requires that an 11-inch x 14-inch (28cm x 35.5cm) poster include the sacred text in “large, easily readable font” and that the commandments be the “centerpiece” of the display.

The mandates will also be displayed along with a four-paragraph “contextual statement” that describes how these mandates “have been an important part of American public education for nearly three centuries.”

Posters are required to be displayed in all state-funded classrooms by 2025 — but no state funding has been provided to pay for the posters.

Four civil rights groups have confirmed they are planning a legal challenge, highlighting the religious diversity of Louisiana’s schools.

A joint statement by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation called the law “blatantly unconstitutional.”

But the bill’s author, Republican state lawmaker Toddy Horton, has spoken of the importance of returning a “moral code” to classrooms. As the bill was rubber-stamped by the governor, he was quoted as saying, “Confidence seems to be in the air everywhere.”

There have been several legal battles in the past over the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings including courts, police stations and schools.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Kentucky law that required the document to be displayed in elementary and high schools. This precedent has been cited by groups fighting the Louisiana law.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the requirement to enact the Ten Commandments had “no secular legislative intent” and was “clearly religious in nature” — noting that the commandments refer to worshiping God.

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