Louisiana Governor Faces Lawsuit Over 10 Commandments Law After Saying He Wished To Be Sued

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana families with children in public schools to challenge a new state law requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every classroom, calling it “blatantly unconstitutional.”

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed H.B. 71 into law on Wednesday, making Louisiana the first state to mandate the display of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms.

The law, which requires the commandments to be displayed on a poster or framed document that is at least eleven inches by fourteen inches in a large, easily readable font, will take effect on January 1, 2025.

Governor Landry justified the requirement as a way of respecting “the original law giver, Moses.”

At a fundraiser before signing the bill, he boasted, “I can’t wait to be sued,” anticipating legal challenges to the legislation.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on Monday, includes a diverse group of nine families with parents who are rabbis, pastors, and reverends.

The complaint argues that the law violates the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and seeks to block the statute’s enforcement.

The plaintiffs argue that the primary intent behind H.B. 71 is to impose religious beliefs on public school students.

During the bill’s debate, its main sponsor, Rep. Dodie Horton, stated that the purpose of the law is to display God’s law in classrooms to teach children right from wrong.

The complaint also criticizes the law’s “context statement,” which claims that the Ten Commandments are part of America’s and Louisiana’s legal history.

It points out that the law includes a fabricated quote attributed to James Madison, which has been debunked as part of the “Ten Commandments Hoax.”

Furthermore, the lawsuit highlights the theological disagreements over different versions of the Ten Commandments and the fact that many Louisiana residents follow faith traditions that do not recognize the Ten Commandments or do not adhere to any religion.

Rep. Sylvia Taylor, a co-sponsor of H.B. 71, has stated that the law aims to bring people back to their religious roots by addressing the problem of individuals “lacking in direction” due to not attending churches.

“This law is a disturbing abuse of power by state officials,” said Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Louisiana law requires children to attend school so they can be educated, not evangelized.”

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, added:

“By filing this lawsuit, Louisianans clap back and let the Governor know he can’t use religion as a cover for repression.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms is illegal, striking down a similar Kentucky statute.

However, recent Supreme Court decisions, including the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade and the ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton, have prompted challenges to longstanding legal principles.

If Louisiana loses at the district court level, it has the option to appeal to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and potentially to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has recently shown favor towards “religious liberty” cases.