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Louisiana considers law requiring Ten Commandments in public school classrooms

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Louisiana may soon require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom. That's in a bill that passed the state Senate last week. A few other states have also considered this move after a U.S. Supreme Court decision about religion in schools. Molly Ryan with member station WRKF in Baton Rouge has more.

MOLLY RYAN, BYLINE: The bill specifies that a poster, at least 11 inches by 14 inches, must be displayed in every public school classroom with the Ten Commandments, spelling out the prohibitions against killing and stealing to prohibitions against coveting your neighbor's wife, servant, or cattle. Proponents say it will provide moral guidance to students.

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DODIE HORTON: The significance is historical. Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. In fact, without them, a lot of our laws would not exist.

RYAN: That's State Representative Dodie Horton, a Republican lawmaker and sponsor of the bill, discussing it at the legislature last month. She passed a similar bill last year that requires all public school classrooms to display In God We Trust. Horton and other proponents say there's a new legal opportunity for something that's been prohibited in the past. They cite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave a high school football coach his job back after he was fired for praying on the field.

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HORTON: The legal landscape has changed, which now allows us to present a bill like the Ten Commandments.

RYAN: A similar bill failed in Texas last year, and Arizona's governor vetoed a slightly different one. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says Louisiana would be the only state to require the Commandments in all classrooms. Opponents of the bill say it's state-sanctioned religion and violates the First Amendment. Here's Terry Landry with the Southern Poverty Law Center opposing the bill at a Senate committee, saying it violates the rights of families of varying religious beliefs.

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TERRY LANDRY: Where are the parental rights in this particular issue?

RYAN: The proposal does not require teachers to teach the Ten Commandments. But some, including Landry, argue some of the commandments could raise uncomfortable questions for elementary school students.

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LANDRY: Do I want a teacher explaining to my child, what is adultery?

RYAN: He noted that could also clash with another bill being considered to ban classroom discussion of sexual orientation. The bill goes back to the House, where it's expected to pass with some changes before heading to Republican Governor Jeff Landry's desk. If he signs the bill, opponents are expected to challenge it in court.

For NPR News, I'm Molly Ryan in Baton Rouge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MINUTEMEN'S "COHESION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Molly Ryan
[Copyright 2024 89.3 WRKF Baton Rouge]
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