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Louisiana is right to want the Ten Commandments in classrooms | Opinion

Louisiana is about to become the first state in the nation to require schools that accept public funding to post the Ten Commandments in every classroom.

This welcome development follows former Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy’s victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022. In that 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the coach’s silent prayers at the 50-yard line after games did not . violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Supporters of the bill argue that, if it is legal to pray silently on school grounds, it is constitutional to publish a thousands-year-old document that has been fundamental in the creation of our country’s laws. The proposal directly challenges this Stone vs. Grahama 1980 Supreme Court ruling that struck down demonstrations in Ten Commandments classrooms across the country.

At the time, the judges applied the “lemon test,” which required that the act must have a primarily secular purpose. In Stonethe Court ruled that the Ten Commandments served a clearly religious purpose and therefore violated the Establishment Clause.

But in the Kennedy case, the current Supreme Court clearly stated that it had “abandoned” the Lemon Test and would instead look to “historical practices and understandings” to determine whether the government’s actions violate the Establishment Clause. In the future, the Court will therefore consider whether the drafters of the Constitution would have considered the acts of the state to be an establishment of religion.

Now that the Lemon Test has been officially rejected, it is fair to ask whether, under this alternative test, based on “historical practices and understandings,” a state could require that a culturally and historically important document, such as the Ten Commandments, be placed in public schools is hung. classrooms.

In 1983, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in Marsh vs. Chambersthe judges decided to ignore the Lemon test. They looked to historical practices to help decide whether a paid legislative chaplain violated the Establishment Clause. The Court ruled that it was not a violation to have a government-sponsored chaplain open legislative sessions with prayer because the historical context revealed that “the men who wrote the First Amendment religion clauses paid legislative chaplains and opened prayers were not considered a violation of that amendment. .”

Likewise, Louisiana lawmakers have a legitimate argument for claiming that the framers of the U.S. Constitution would not have considered it established religion to require the Ten Commandments to be placed in a public classroom.

Generations of Americans grew up with the Ten Commandments on their school walls. This universal set of ethical guidelines provides a moral basis for promoting the betterment of the individual and society.

Ten Commandments and Supreme Court
WASHINGTON – JUNE 23: A copy of the Ten Commandments is displayed outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23, 2005 in Washington, DC. Opponents and supporters of the church and state issue are bracing themselves for…


Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Commandments also have special significance as part of our Western cultural and legal heritage. Throughout American history, their display in public places has served as an acknowledgment of their influence on the development of our laws and morality.

Some opponents of the Louisiana legislation argue that it violates the separation of church and state. This is a misleading statement; ‘separation of church and state’ is never even mentioned in the US Constitution.

The phrase comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Baptist church association. The association expressed concern that the government would be targeted for persecution for being a religious minority. Jefferson used the phrase “separation of church and state” in an attempt to assure people of faith that the Constitution would protect their religious freedom from government discrimination.

Ironically, Jefferson’s words have since been used by individuals who seek to exclude religion from public debate to discriminate against people of faith.

Regardless of what happens in Louisiana, the effort to bring the Ten Commandments back to the classroom isn’t going away anytime soon.

Texas and Utah tried last legislative session but ultimately failed to pass their versions of the Louisiana bill. North Dakota and South Dakota, among others, have already passed laws allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted in public classrooms.

The time is ripe for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this issue.

Given the historical practices and views of the Framers of the Constitution, there is ample evidence that the promulgation of the Ten Commandments is neither an endorsement nor an establishment of religion.

Those who accuse legislators of this, or worse, falsely accuse them of advocating a theocracy, may want to consult commandment number nine: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Nicole Hunt is an attorney and writer for Focus on the Family’s Daily Citizen.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.