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Ten Commandments Must Be Displayed in All Public School Classrooms, According to New State Law

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GOP Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed a bill into law Wednesday that mandates the display of the Ten Commandments in all the state’s public school classrooms.

A poster-sized display with “large, easily readable font” must be placed in classrooms from kindergarten to state-funded universities, The Associated Press reported.

Proponents of the new law argued that the Ten Commandments have played a role beyond religion in forming the nation’s laws and traditions.

In fact, the Louisiana law requires that a four-paragraph context statement be included with the display, explaining that the Commandments are part of “foundational documents of our state and national government.”

No state funds are earmarked to be used in implementing the mandate. Instead, the posters can be paid through private donations.

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Opponents of the new law say it violates the Constitution, citing the First Amendment, which states, in part, that Congress shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation announced Wednesday they would be filing a suit to challenge the new law.

They pointed to the 1980 Supreme Court case Stone v. Graham, in which the justices ruled that a Kentucky law requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

However, at that time the Court cited the so-called Lemon test to determine whether a law had the effect of establishing a religion.

Do you think the Ten Commandments should be displayed in classrooms?

In the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman, the justices had adopted the following analysis: “First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion … finally the statute must not foster ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion.'”

Kentucky, like Louisiana, had required the displays to explain the historical importance of the Commandments, and they were financed through private donations.

The Court applied the Lemon test to the Kentucky law and decided, “The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature.”

“The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one’s parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and covetousness,” the justices continued.

“Rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshiping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord’s name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day.”

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But conservative Justice William Rehnquist argued in a dissent, “The Court rejects the secular purpose articulated by the State because the Decalogue [another name for the Ten Commandments] is ‘undeniably a sacred text,’ … It is equally undeniable, however, as the elected representatives of Kentucky determined, that the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western World.”

Rehnquist went on to contend, “The Establishment Clause does not require that the public sector be insulated from all things which may have a religious significance or origin. This Court has recognized that ‘religion has been closely identified with our history and government,'” quoting from the 1963 Abington School District v. Schempp.

That Court ruled in that case that mandatory Bible reading in the classroom was unconstitutional, but the justices noted “it might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.”

The Supreme Court abandoned the Lemon test in the 2022 case Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, determining the establishment clause “must be interpreted by ‘reference to historical practices and understandings.’”

So it appears the Louisiana Ten Commandments display would have a good chance of being ruled constitutional under this guidance.

The U.S. was founded on a biblical worldview.

At its core is the belief that a just God, as revealed in the Bible, governs over the affairs of this world, and he has established timeless divine laws — the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” — that create corresponding inalienable rights, as stated in the Declaration of Independence.

The pre-eminent law book at the time of the founding, Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Law of England,” lays all this out well.

“Upon these two foundations, the law of nature [established by God and observable in creation] and the law of revelation [found in the Bible, directly revealed by God], depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these,” Blackstone wrote.

As I explained in my book “We Hold These Truths,” the Ten Commandments create the right to life (“You shall not murder”) and the right to own property (“You shall not steal”).

The commandment not to covet your neighbor’s house “or anything that is your neighbor’s” is also a recognition of the right to own property and a rebuke to the central tenet of socialism: Use the force of government to spread the wealth around.

Another commandment, “You shall not bear false witness,” creates the right not to be falsely accused of a crime (which, of course, would result in the loss of one’s life, liberty or property). The right to due process of law is designed to protect the accused from false allegations.

The commandment to “honor your father and your mother” establishes the central role of family in society and that there are two genders.

The family is also delineated in the book of Genesis and reaffirmed by Jesus Christ in the New Testament: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

So the Ten Commandments are very important to the nation’s legal history and worthy of study and placement in the classroom.


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Randy DeSoto has written more than 3,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Birthplace
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Graduated dean's list from West Point
Education
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith




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