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June 24th, 2024

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


You just cannot keep Louisiana out of the national news. As Roseanne Roseannada used to say on Saturday Night Live: “It’s always something” Here in the Bayou State, there are happenings that stir up both interest and dismay from coast to coast. In recent weeks, it’s been our Baton Rouge gal, Stormy Daniels. And for months now, the national press has been consumed with stories about our former obscure congressman from Northeast Louisiana, now speaker Mike Johnson.

Recently, news outlets all over the country have been expressing concerns and publishing columns over the appropriateness of a new law, just signed by Louisiana’s governor, requiring every public school classroom to display the Ten Commandments. That’s right! The laws of getting along with one another, handed down by the good Lord himself, are deemed by many in the national press to be right down inappropriate for public display.

Most opponents to the new law argue that religion has no place in the classroom. But is a mere display of rules to live by on a small sheet of paper posted on the wall have that much undue influence on school children? It’s not like they are specific requirements of adherence to any specific religion.  And only three of the ten commandments make any reference to the Lord. So just how far should we go with such an argument?

There are numerous references to God and religion from the founding of America right up to the present.  Let’s start with the US Constitution (“the year of our Lord – Article IV). State Constitutions?  God is mentioned in all of the 50 state constitutions and nearly 200 times overall, according to the Pew Research Center. Check out any federal banknote or all paper money as well as coins and you will see the phrase “in God we trust.” In the signing of the Bill of Rights, the document ends with “the year of our Lord.”

A trip to the nation’s capital will let a visitor see numerous religious artworks and religious references on virtually every public building and monument. “In God we Trust” is prominently displayed throughout the United States capital, along with numerous other religious symbols and paintings. And how about Moses, who went to the mountain to receive the law of God, who can be seen looking down on the proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives. It would be hard for you to find a federal building that does not display images of the Ten Commandments including the U.S. Supreme Court itself.

I took an oath to uphold the laws of Louisiana on eight different occasions as a public official. As Secretary of State, I gave the same oath to literally hundreds of state and local officials. In every instance, the last words of the oath stated, “so help me God.” 

Groups are coming out of the woodwork to say they are ready to challenge this new law, including The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. These groups, plus other national organizations, site a Supreme Court ruling back in 1980 that found unconstitutional a similar statute that was approved in Kentucky. But the whole makeup of the US Supreme Court has changed radically since this ruling.

The current court is obviously much more conservative as we have witnessed from a host of contemporary rulings. A recent decision by this more conservative court ruled that a Washington state high school football coach, who had been fired for praying at midfield after football games and inviting players to join him, was able to get a favorable ruling stating that such prayers do not amount to any endorsement by the school of Christianity.

The law requiring the displaying of the Ten Commandments received overwhelming support from Louisiana legislators with immediate backing of the governor. Considering the make-up of the US Supreme Court, the opponents to such a display will face an uphill fight. Outside of a lightning strike against the law from the good Lord himself, you can expect to see the Ten Commandments soon to be on the walls of Louisiana Public schools. My opinion? It just ain’t no big deal. With all the negative things that happen in public schools, this might be refreshing.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.













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