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Bill requiring Ten Commandments in classrooms passes House | Education

Louisiana is one step closer to becoming the first state to require that public schools display the Ten Commandments in every classroom under a bill approved Wednesday by the state’s House of Representatives.

Following a lengthy debate, lawmakers voted 82-19 in favor of House Bill 71. The bill’s author, Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, said the legislation honors the country’s religious origins.

“The Ten Commandments are the basis of all laws in Louisiana, and given all the junk our children are exposed to in classrooms today, it’s imperative that we put the Ten Commandments back in a prominent position,” she said.

Last year, Horton successfully shepherded a bill requiring classrooms to display the U.S. motto, “In God We Trust.” On Wednesday, she referenced Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a landmark 2022 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot stop an individual from engaging in personal religious observance, or else risk violating the First Amendment.

“The landscape has changed,” Horton said.

Critics of the bill, however, questioned its constitutionality.

“If it’s not adhered to, or even acknowledged by religions across the world,” said Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, referring to the Ten Commandments, “are we not basically establishing a Christian religion in our schools?” 

It was one of two bills promoting religion in K-12 schools to receive broad support Wednesday. House Bill 334, which authorizes schools to bring in chaplains to work with students, also passed the House with 86-6.

Both bills now advance to the Senate.

The legislation highlights the increasingly blurry divide between church and state that’s become more common in many Republican-led states.

Inspired by Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last year signed a law allowing school districts to hire chaplains or use them as volunteers, 13 other states have introduced similar bills this legislative season, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The states include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.

At least one other state – Utah – is also considering legislation that would require schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms. Texas proposed a similar bill last year, but it failed to receive a vote by the House before a crucial deadline.

The Louisiana Legislature last year passed Horton’s bill requiring public schools to display “In God We Trust” in classrooms. While at least 17 states now require or allow the phrase to be used in school buildings, Louisiana was the first to require it in every room.

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