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Bill requiring 10 Commandments in LA classrooms advances | The Latest | Gambit Weekly

A bill requiring the 10 Commandments be posted in all Louisiana public and charter school classrooms sailed out of the House Education committee Thursday, passing with a 10-3 vote.

Proponents of House Bill 71 argued the commandments were “historically significant,” with the sponsor of the bill, Haughton Republican Rep. Dodie Horton, calling them the “plumbline on which all American laws were formed.”

“People from all walks of life, from every religion, from every country have to obey the laws of our land, whether they’re offensive or not,” Horton said. “It deserves to be posted and for our children to see everything that God says is right and everything that he says is wrong.”

Horton’s bill doesn’t require teachers to teach the 10 Commandments, but opponents said having them hanging in the classroom could lead to students asking some awkward questions, particularly about the commandments “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”

“Am I going to have to explain to a middle school child what adultery is?” asked Jacob Newsom, a public school teacher testifying against the bill.

Rep. Barbara Freiberg of Baton Rouge was the only Republican on the committee to vote against the bill, noting that some of the commandments conflict with some non-Christian religious beliefs. Democrats Ken Brass of Vacherie and Barbara Carpenter of Baton Rouge also voted against it.

“It’s God’s law, and it’s universal law,” Haughton said.

“It’s the Christian law,” Freiberg replied, pointing out that Haughton’s bill requires schools to specifically display the King James Bible’s version of the 10 Commandments.

Rep. Josh Carlson, a freshman Lafayette Republican, voted in favor of the bill, adding “I think that we would not have the nation that we have today if it weren’t for the founding of our nation upon Judeo-Christian values.”

The bill would also apply to public universities and trade schools. It specifies that private donations could pay for the posters of the 10 Commandments, which must be at least 11 by 14 inches. 

Last year Horton also brought a bill to display “In God We Trust,” the national motto of the U.S. since 1956, in every classroom, which went into effect last August. It already had to be displayed in school buildings.

Based on the committee’s response and past voting history, the legislature could be on track to pass the 10 Commandments bill. But if it becomes law, it could face legal challenges.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Kentucky law, ruling it violated the clause in the First Amendment forbidding the “establishment” of a state religion because it “had no secular legislative purpose.”

The House Education committee also passed House Bill 334, which lets school boards hire paid or volunteer chaplains. No one on the committee objected.

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