Ten Commandments Bill Progresses in Louisiana Legislature with Potential Legal Challenge

An introduced legislation to mandate the display of the Ten Commandments in all Louisiana K-12 schools, colleges, and universities progressed through the Legislature on Wednesday. However, it now faces a potential legal challenge after being revised to encompass private institutions.

If the proposal goes through, Louisiana would be the initial state to enforce the placement of the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

Representative Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, has advocated for her bill as a means to offer moral direction to students by using a historical document she deems as the foundation of all U.S. laws. Schools would not have to invest their funds in obtaining posters of the Ten Commandments, but they would be compelled to exhibit them if donated.

The House proceeded with an 83-18 vote to pass the bill to the Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is against the proposed legislation.

State Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, presents a bill on the Louisiana House floor on May 23, 2023. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

Detractors of the bill view it as endorsing religion by the state, which the First Amendment restricts. Horton was questioned about individuals who follow religious beliefs other than Christianity or Judaism and do not regard the Ten Commandments as a moral guide.

“I’m not concerned with Muslims. I’m not concerned with atheists,” Horton responded. “I am concerned with our own children seeing what God’s law is.”

The discussion on Horton’s bill exceeded three hours on the House floor, with three failed efforts to amend it.

Representative Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, proposed adding the Golden Rule alongside the Ten Commandments. It originates from the New Testament (Matthew 7:12) “…in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…”

When asked, Horton mentioned she was unaware of the Golden Rule’s origins. She opposed Landry’s amendment, which was rejected by the House.

Representative Joy Walters, D-Shreveport, aimed to include a tagline stating “African American, A.D. 1750” on displays of the Ten Commandments, as they were not considered relevant to Black individuals until the mid-18th century, she asserted. Her proposal also did not succeed.

Representative Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, suggested exhibiting the 42 laws of Ma’at in classrooms as well. Some religious historians propose that the Ten Commandments were copied from principles associated with Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, and order, which were established about 2,000 years before Moses received the commandments.

Rep. Jason Hughes asks a question during the May 26, 2022, meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Representative Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, was unsuccessful in his attempt to eliminate the classroom display requirement from Horton’s bill. Nevertheless, he managed to have House members modify it to mandate that any school receiving state funding comply with the proposed law.

The inclusion posed an issue for Representative Mike Bayham, R-Chalmette, who supported Horton’s bill and cautioned colleagues that it would heighten the chance of a non-religious private school filing a lawsuit to prevent the law’s enforcement.

Legislators in favor of the initiative aimed to strike a balance between integrating their religious beliefs into the public school environment and what they perceive as the necessity to offer direction to students.

“I think the moral decline of our children is something we should be concerned about,” remarked Representative Roger Wilder, R-Denham Springs.

Representative Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, referenced Republican Governor Jeff Landry’s inauguration speech from January to elucidate the need to eliminate any hindrances to education from the classroom.

“We need to ‘let the teachers teach,'” Brown cited the governor. “I don’t believe this (the Ten Commandments) is in the curriculum.”

Update: This report was updated to reflect Rep. Delisha Boyd’s vote change from no to yes.

Louisiana Illuminator

Other articles

Education
Biden-Harris Administration pledges unprecedented $16 billion in aid for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration has introduced a groundbreaking level of …

Read More
Post Image
Education
Louisiana Legislature approves state funding for private schools, a victory for Landry

A motion to allocate state funds for K-12 public school students to private scho …

Read More
Post Image
Education
A group of young adults to assist schools in addressing youth mental health challenges

Nelly Grosso, an AmeriCorps member at a Denver-area high school, has actively wo …

Read More