A lawsuit was filed against a Louisiana law requiring the Ten Commandments in classrooms

Filed by a coalition of groups A case Louisiana on Monday protested a new requirement to post Ten Commandments in every school classroom, saying the new law infringes on parents’ rights.

“Permanently placing the Ten Commandments in every Louisiana public school classroom — making them inescapable — unconstitutionally pressures students into religious observance, worship, and adoption of the state’s preferred religious texts,” the lawsuit states. Courts have already ruled against the tradition and practice of hanging ordinances in classrooms.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the national and state offices of the American Civil Liberties Union. The plaintiffs include nine Louisiana families of different faiths, four of whom are clergy.

At an afternoon news conference, some rights groups said the case was of national importance.

“We are at an inflection point in Louisiana and in America. This is an account from the civil rights movement. I would suggest that we are in the civil rights movement of our generation. It is a choice we make, and whether we move toward light, hope, and freedom, or whether we choose to live in darkness or encourage despair. about,” said Alana Odums, executive director of the state’s ACLU. The law, known as HB71, is the “canary in the coal mine,” she said.

Groups working to protect church-state separation said last week they would challenge the law, which was signed Wednesday by Gov. Jeff Landry (R) and the first of its kind in the country since 1980. The court ruled that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional.

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State Attorney General Liz Murrill said Monday that she had not yet seen the case, but pointed to a case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court in Louisiana accusing the Biden administration of censoring conservative views and the January conviction of six abortion protesters who staged a blockade in Tennessee. Abortion clinic. In the first case, management said it only made requests to remove false information.

“The ACLU seems picky about the First Amendment — it doesn’t care when the Biden administration censors speech or arrests pro-life protesters, but apparently it will fight to block posters discussing our own legal history,” he said.

Last week, it appeared on a conservative cable channel Newsmax noted Murrill Law It calls for posting scriptures “with context,” describing the Ten Commandments as “an important part of American public education for nearly three centuries.” “Our Legislature is trying to pull the needle on the effort to add context. … It’s not played out yet, and I certainly plan to provide legislative guidance to our school system.

Heather Weaver, an ACLU staff attorney for freedom of religion and belief, said that as a matter of law, there is no context that would justify a permanent, mainstream version of the Ten Commandments from a particular Protestant text.

“It’s really bad because they’re posting it in every classroom, trying to get students’ attention in a very complicated way,” he said at a Monday afternoon briefing. “There’s no reason for that, it’s not going to be linked to any academic course.”

The new law gives schools until Jan. 1 to display the Ten Commandments “on a poster or framed document at least eleven inches by fourteen inches” in every classroom. The law states that commands should be the “central focus” of the display and “printed in large, easily readable font.”

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Rev. Jeff Sims, a Presbyterian pastor, father of three Louisiana public school students and the plaintiff, said the law was a “total intrusion” of government into private faith.

“I want my children to understand scripture in the context of our faith, which respects God’s diversity and teaches that all people are equal. This law interferes with my religious freedom — it tramples on it,” she said. “We have separated church and state in this country to prevent such government overreach. As a pastor and father, I cannot remain silent when our political representatives usurp God’s authority for themselves.

Lawyers for the rights groups said Monday they hope the law will be defeated if the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I have been watching for years [Supreme Court rulings] “There is great concern about coercive practices against children,” said Patrick Elliott, legal director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Since the law’s passage, church-state legal experts have noted that the legal metric used in the 1980 case was set aside by the current conservative court in 2022. The so-called Lemon Test has been used for more than 50 years to ask whether a law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, whether the government “overly” interferes with religion, or whether a particular law harms or promotes religion. – rather than being neutral.

In 2022, the court recommended looking at history, tradition and the text of the Constitution.

“Right now we’re in uncharted territory,” Michael Helfand, a professor who focuses on religion and ethics at Pepperdine University’s law school, said last week of how the Louisiana law might work.

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