Louisiana will soon become the first state in the nation requiring public universities and K-12 schools to display the Ten Commandments in each classroom. This is undoubtedly a good move.

The Pelican State’s House Bill No. 71 requires public schools that receive state funds to “display the Ten Commandments in each building it uses and classroom in each school under its jurisdiction.”

Both the state’s House and Senate approved the bill by overwhelming margins. The House adopted the bill by a vote of 82-19 while the Senate voted 30-8 in favor of it.

After the Senate added an amendment permitting the displays be paid for by public donation, the House reapproved the bill in a second vote of 79-16 on May 28. It was sent to Gov. Jeff Landry for approval on June 4.

Opponents of the bill have argued that schools shouldn’t teach the Ten Commandments. Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, in speaking out against the bill, said, “I didn’t have to learn the Ten Commandments in school. We went to Sunday school.”

But just because students can learn the Ten Commandments in church, it doesn’t follow that this divine and ancient wisdom shouldn’t also be taught in public schools. Shouldn’t we want all children to learn to honor their father and mother, and to not kill, steal, lie or covet?

The Ten Commandments explicitly summarize the universal moral code that each person’s conscience is bound to – and it is in a clear conscience, and living in accordance with the moral law, from which true happiness flows.

Our nation’s children are in desperate need of happiness, guidance, and spiritual instruction.

Adolescents today are facing a mental health crisis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a staggering 36.9% of high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in 2019. A shocking 18.8% have seriously considered attempting suicide and 8.9% have attempted suicide.

Thankfully, studies have shown that religion can help improve individual’s mental health.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Religion gives people something to believe in, provides a sense of structure and typically offers a group of people to connect with over similar beliefs. … Research suggests that religiosity reduces suicide rates, alcoholism and drug use.”

Is it any wonder that adolescents’ deteriorating mental health has coincided with a decline in their religiosity?

Of the many ailments and difficulties facing our nation’s children, too much religion is definitely not one of them.

Now, should Gov. Landry sign H.B. 71 into law, in all likelihood it will be promptly challenged by leftist organizations like the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A few years ago, these groups would have had an open and shut case. But the current conservative Supreme Court is not the liberal court of yesteryear.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision in Stone v. Graham that a Kentucky law requiring the Ten Commandments be posted in each public classroom violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The court relied on Lemon test (created in the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtsman) which stipulated that a law violates the Establishment Clause if it does not have “a secular legislative purpose.”

In his dissent from the court’s decision, Justice Rehnquist wrote that “The Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western World.” In other words, the Ten Commandments do serve a secular, educational purpose – not only a spiritual one.

“The Establishment Clause does not require that the public sector be insulated from all things which may have a religious significance or origin,” the justice added.

In our day, the legal case for permitting the Ten Commandments in classrooms is even stronger.

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Lemon test in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, instead holding that “the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by ‘reference to historical practices and understandings.’”

“The line that courts and governments must draw between the permissible and the impermissible has to accord with history and faithfully reflect the understanding of the Founding Fathers,” the court said.

It’s undeniable the Founding Fathers would have seen a classroom display of the Ten Commandments as not an establishment of religion, and therefore a permissible government act.

In fact, the Founders frequently lauded religion, specifically the Judeo-Christian tradition.

In his letter to the Massachusetts Militia on 11 October 1798, President John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We can look to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which was adopted by the Confederation Congress and chartered a government for the Northwest Territory.

“Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged,” the 1787 document states.

And we can also look to The New England Primer – which was the primary education textbook for millions of early Americans – of which many selections were drawn from the King James Bible. The Primer was used in schools from the 1680s until the 20th century.

For those who founded our country, education and religion were explicitly tied together.

For these reasons, it’s highly likely the Supreme Court of today would overrule Stone v. Graham since it relies on the now-overruled Lemon test and imposes requirements – like the removal of the Ten Commandments from classrooms – that would have been unrecognizable to our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Louisiana’s H.B. 71 would help provide desperately needed moral and spiritual direction for our nation’s children. It would promote civic religion and a tried and true moral code. And it would give our nation’s judicial system the chance to correct the outdated and antiquated caselaw prohibiting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

For these reasons, the Pelican State is absolutely right to enact H.B. 71. Let’s hope more states follow suit.

Photo from Shutterstock.