Louisiana gov fails to notice girl fainting behind him as he signs bill requiring Ten Commandments in schools

Louisiana’s public school classrooms now required to display the Ten Commandments

Alex Woodward
Thursday 20 June 2024 23:58 BST
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Girl faints during Louisiana governor bill signing

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Louisiana’s Republican Governor Jeff Landry failed to notice a young girl fainting directly behind him as he signed a bill that forces public schools to hang the Ten Commandments in every classroom.

A girl in a group of young students standing behind the governor appeared to collapse while Landry smiled and soaked in the applause from his supporters at a Catholic school in Lafayette on June 19.

“If you want to respect the rule of law,” said Landry, completely unaware that the girl fainted behind him, “you gotta start from the original lawgiver – which was Moses.”

Louisiana is the first state in the US to require all public schools and universities to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

The legislation was part of a package of bills promising “drastic change” in schools in the state, where lawmakers had already forced classrooms to hang “in God we trust” signs last year.

Speaking at a GOP fundraiser in Tennessee last week, Landry said he “can’t wait to be sued” after signing the Ten Commandments bill. Shortly after Landry’s signing ceremony, a coalition of civil rights groups said they plan to do just that.

A student appears to faint as Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signs legislation on June 19 that forces public schools to hand the Ten Commandments in every classroom
A student appears to faint as Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signs legislation on June 19 that forces public schools to hand the Ten Commandments in every classroom (WBRZ)

“The law violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional,” according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church, among other groups that are planning to sue the governor.

“The First Amendment promises that we all get to decide for ourselves what religious beliefs, if any, to hold and practice, without pressure from the government,” they said in a joint statement on Wednesday. Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools.”

The measure requires all schools to display the text exactly as written in the bill, and in “a poster or framed document that is at least eleven inches by fourteen inches” – at minimum – and “in a large, easily readable font.”

It also requires a 200-word “context statement” arguing that the Ten Commandments were “a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries” up until 50 years ago.

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signs legislation that forces the Ten Commandments in state schools on June 19
Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signs legislation that forces the Ten Commandments in state schools on June 19 (AP)

Conservative Christian legal groups have been angling for another shot at reversing Supreme Court rulings protecting the separation of church and state after justices shot down a similar state law in Kentucky more than 30 years ago, on the grounds that the state violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against any laws “respecting an establishment of religion.”

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the public display of the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky county courthouses was similarly unconstitutional.

And in 2022, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority loosened interpretations of the First Amendment’s establishment clause by siding with a high school football coach who prayed with his team on the 50-yard line.

Joseph Kennedy claimed that Washington state’s Bremerton School District violated his religious freedom after staff repeatedly asked him to move his prayer to somewhere less conspicuous, as to avoid the appearance of the school’s endorsement of a religious view.

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that the Supreme Court “continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build.”

The Independent has requested comment from Landry’s office and Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School.

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