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The Ten Commandments Bill: A Louisiana State Resident’s Perspective

On June 19, Louisiana governor Jeff Landry signed a bill (HB71) that requires all public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting January 1, 2025. I was born and raised in a suburb of New Orleans and I currently attend Southern Adventist University. I find it disheartening to see laws passed that infringe on the free expression of religion in my home state.

Louisiana’s new Ten Commandments law stipulates how an edited version (see image above) of Exodus 20:2-17 (KJV) will be displayed in the over 1,300 schools in the state. The commandments must be shown on a poster or framed sign that is at least 11-by-14 inches with a “context statement” about the printing of the Ten Commandments in American textbooks created in the 17th and 19th centuries. The bill states that “including the Ten Commandments in the education of our children is part of our state and national history, culture, and tradition.”

Citing both historical and moral reasons, this poses a concern for many who believe in the separation of church and state and view this law as a direct disagreement with the First Amendment that declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” 

Following the bill’s passage, Louisiana families and organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed multiple lawsuits. In this predominantly Christian state, with a large Catholic population, it appears politically easy for lawmakers to justify HB71. They can question why anyone would not want a sign in a classroom that forbids murdering, stealing, or lying. However, introducing laws that allow the government to define which specific translation of the Bible should predominate—and the presumption that public classrooms are taught by Christians and have Christian students—seems blatantly discriminatory and contradictory to biblical principles and the First Amendment, both of which these lawmakers say they uphold.

Much of the relevant religio-political history of the United States of America begins with the Pilgrims, who wanted religion to be separate from the English state church’s control. They believed in the right to express their beliefs freely, without the government having jurisdiction over their beliefs. Governor Landry’s statement during the signing ceremony, “If you want to respect the rule of law, you gotta start from the original law given which was from Moses,” undermines the history and pluralistic values that have sustained this country. 

This bill poses an even greater threat to Seventh-day Adventists in Louisiana, who are already a minority in the state. Even though laws that favor Christian principles may not seem inherently wrong, the separation of church and state is essential to Adventists’ sabbatarian beliefs. When lawmakers respect and uphold certain religious principles over others, they infringe on the freedom to choose how we practice. Protestant denominations—including Adventists—interpret the biblical texts differently, and although the Ten Commandments to be displayed in Louisiana classrooms are said to be solely historical, not instructional, who will regulate what goes on in every single classroom? HB71 increases the government’s role in individual freedom and opens the gateway to more laws that threaten religious expression.

Included in the Ten Commandments approved by the state is the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8 NKJV), which is not practiced by the vast majority of Christian denominations. What if a student were to ask why some commandments are followed while others are not? Teachers in state-funded schools are not religious leaders and should not be expected to represent a Christian specific religious view in the classroom. There is a large Catholic population within Louisiana that follows a different version of the 10 Commandments. 

This bill in my state should matter to Adventists across the nation as it will set the precedent for what is permissible in future legislation. When Adventists fight for religious liberty for all and our freedom to practice our beliefs, it means that all humans should be treated fairly and have equal opportunities. Now HB71 removes the freedom of choice in a public space in my state and uses the state to manipulate and enforce biblical belief. I truly feel that some of these lawmakers had good intentions when supporting this bill; however, this historically and religiously inaccurate act undermines the First Amendment and diminishes individual autonomy.

Clint Jones

About the author

Clint Jones is a sophomore at Southern Adventist University double majoring in international development and Spanish. He was born and raised in the New Orleans suburbs and attends the Slidell Seventh-day Adventist Church. More from Clint Jones.
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