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Proposed bill requires schools display the Ten Commandments

by Minden Press-Herald

By Claire Sullivan and Piper Naudin | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—The House Education Committee voted 10-3 Thursday to advance a bill to require public schools to display the 10 Commandments.

House Bill 7l, by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, is attempting to navigate the traditional legal divide between church and state.

Under the bill, which next goes to the House floor, the commandments would need to be displayed in a format of at least 11-by-4 inches.

“This bill just simply seeks to have a display of God’s law in the classroom for children to see what he says is right and what he says is wrong,” Horton said.

Critics have argued the bill would violate the First Amendment, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

Rep. Barbara Reich Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, was one of three who voted against the bill Thursday. She was joined by Rep. Ken Brass, D-Vacherie, and Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge.

Freiburg said that similar legislation has failed to pass in other states and that this would send “a wrong message to so many of our students.”

“I have concerns about requiring this in public schools where we wish to embrace students of all cultures, of all religious backgrounds and of all religious faiths,” she said.

Horton rejected the concerns by arguing that her bill was “not preaching a Christian religion.” She argued the 10 Commandments were not confined to Christianity, casting them simply as a moral code.

“I beg to differ that this is just Christian,” she said, “but I have no qualms if it was.” 

Horton said the Commandments are foundational to American law. Freiburg sparred on that, too, rejecting that all of the directives — ranging from murder to adultery to keeping the Sabbath Day holy — were the basis of the country’s laws.

Horton authored a bill that passed overwhelmingly last year to require the national motto “In God We Trust” in all public-school classrooms. 

In other action involving education this week, the House voted 74-28 Wednesday to ban COVID vaccine requirements at K-12 schools and colleges. That bill now goes to the Senate.

Other bills advanced through the Senate Education Committee Wednesday to require school buses to have heating and air-conditioning systems and to expand mental health counseling for students. 

One of the bills, by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, would require each local school board and college to have at least one mental health counselor for student athletes.  Many athletes are under extreme pressure that impacts their mental health and cause serious issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide. 

Janice Miller testified that she lost her daughter, Elena, to suicide almost two years ago after she suffered a severe sports injury and months of declining mental health. She said thinks often about the words her daughter shared with her before she died. 

“Those people you think are OK aren’t OK,” Miller said. “Mental health matters.” 

Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, also aimed to increase mental health counseling and facilities in schools through bills advanced by the committee.

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