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Louisiana Mandates Ten Commandments in Schools While Teachers Await Raises

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 71 requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms in every public school.
Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 71 requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms in every public school.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has become the first state to require the display of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom, a move driven by a GOP-dominated legislature under newly elected Republican Governor Jeff Landry. This legislation mandates a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in "large, easily readable font" in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses,” Landry said at the signing ceremony.

The law also authorizes, but does not require, the display of other historical documents such as the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance in K-12 public schools. Proponents argue that these documents have historical significance and that the Ten Commandments are foundational to American governance.

However, critics argue the legislation prioritizes a religious agenda over the practical needs of the state’s public education system. Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, have vowed to challenge the law in court, questioning its constitutionality and potential to alienate students from diverse religious backgrounds.

"Even among those who may believe in some version of the Ten Commandments, the particular text that they adhere to can differ by religious denomination or tradition. The government should not be taking sides in this theological debate," the groups said in a joint statement.

The controversy highlights a broader issue facing Louisiana's public education system: the financial struggles of its teachers. Despite their pivotal role in shaping future generations, teachers in Louisiana have faced stagnant wages and inadequate resources for years. Many educators spend their own money on classroom supplies and often work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

The juxtaposition of this new mandate with the ongoing neglect of teacher pay has drawn criticism from educators and their advocates. They argue that while the state focuses on promoting religious values, it overlooks the immediate, tangible needs of its teachers.

"Teachers are expected to perform miracles in the classroom without the necessary support. It's time for policymakers to realign their priorities and give teachers the raises they deserve," said a spokesperson for the Louisiana Association of Educators.

The legal and ethical battles surrounding the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms are not new. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar Kentucky law unconstitutional, citing the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

As the legal challenges unfold, Louisiana's educators continue to advocate for fair compensation, hoping that their voices will be heard amid the state’s shifting political landscape.

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