ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Louisiana Over Ten Commandments Display Law

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana, challenging a new law that mandates the display of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. Signed into law by Republican Governor Jeff Landry last week, the legislation makes Louisiana the first state to require such displays, though Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has pledged to pass a similar measure in his state.

The lawsuit, led by the ACLU and joined by the ACLU Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, claims that the law violates the First Amendment and infringes on parental rights regarding the religious upbringing of their children. The lawsuit argues that the mandated display sends a harmful and divisive message to students who do not adhere to the Ten Commandments or its specific version required by the law.

“It also sends the harmful and religiously divisive message that students who do not subscribe to the Ten Commandments — or, more precisely, to the specific version of the Ten Commandments that H.B. 71 requires schools to display — do not belong in their own school community and should refrain from expressing any faith practices or beliefs that are not aligned with the state’s religious preferences,” the lawsuit stated.

The civil rights groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of nine Louisiana families with diverse religious beliefs, including Jewish, Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and non-religious views. Among the plaintiffs, Jennifer Harding and Benjamin Owens, who identify as nonreligious, expressed their opposition to the government imposing a religious scripture on their child. “The State of Louisiana should not direct a religious upbringing of our child and require students to observe the state’s preferred religious doctrine in every classroom,” they told The Hill.

While the law does not mandate that students adhere to the Ten Commandments, it requires that the commandments be displayed in “large, easily readable font” in every classroom. Supporters of the law argue that the Ten Commandments hold historical significance and are tied to the nation’s founding principles.

In response to the lawsuit, Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill criticized the ACLU, accusing the organization of selective concern for First Amendment issues. “It doesn’t care when the Biden administration censors speech or arrests pro-life protesters, but apparently it will fight to prevent posters that discuss our own legal history,” Murrill said.

The lawsuit highlights the ongoing debate over the separation of church and state and the role of religious symbols in public spaces. As the case progresses, it will likely draw significant attention and potentially set a precedent for similar measures in other states.