Louisiana now requires the 10 Commandments to be displayed in classrooms. It’s not the only terrifying state law

Louisiana now requires the 10 Commandments to be displayed in classrooms. It’s not the only terrifying state law

Louisiana Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed a law mandating that the Ten Commandments — yes, “thou shalt not commit adultery” etc — be displayed in every public school classroom in the state.

Landry has been pushing a hard-right Christian agenda since coming into office six months ago, and the culture war he’s waging also encompasses crackdowns on abortion rights and criminal justice.

At the bill signing ceremony in Lafayette on 19 June, Landry said: “If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses.”

The move has prompted widespread criticism from Democrats and it has already led to legal challenges from civil liberties groups.

Landry also signed other bills, mandating that transgender students be addressed using the pronouns on their birth certificates and that schools be allowed to hire chaplains. Last month, the state enacted a law classifying abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances.

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry has pushed a Christian agenda since becoming governor (AP)
Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry has pushed a Christian agenda since becoming governor (AP)

But there are plenty of other laws Republicans have put in place on the state level over the years that may make some scratch their heads.

Deadly force, anywhere, any time

In Missouri, a bill was passed in 2014 by the statehouse allowing deadly force to be used on any private property against an intruder. While it was intended to give the power to residents to protect their homes, the way it was written meant that the conditions were so loose that anyone anywhere could argue that lethal force was motivated if they felt threatened, according to Salon.

This meant that a sports stadium, a shop, a restaurant, or anywhere else considered private property where someone was authorized to be could be a spot where an individual could use deadly force against anyone they may deem as unlawful entrants. Missouri later passed the controversial “stand your ground” laws, which means someone can kill someone and not face legal repercussions if they believe that person was threatening their life or someone else’s.

Banning mass transit

In Tennessee, a proposed high-speed bus system in Nashville prompted the state senate to pass a bill against mass transit, banning bases from picking up passengers. The new seven-mile bus line outraged drivers as it would require priority in traffic.

Well-off residents along the line also started to complain about the possible people who might use the bus service to get to their neighborhoods, with one complaining that “burger flippers” may visit, Bloomberg noted in March 2014. An auto dealer started sponsoring lawn signs against the system, known as The Amp, worried that it could damage sales.

Shortly after the conservative donors Koch brothers got involved, funding a lobbying group called Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, a bill was brought forward in the state legislature to outlaw buses from picking up or dropping off “passengers in the center lane of a state road.”

However, the legislation was bypassed when the legislature negotiated an agreement to allow the project to go ahead. But within a year, work on the project was abandoned, The Tennessean noted in early 2015. 

Critical race theory fury

Amid the uproar regarding critical race theory in 2021, Texas passed a law aimed at limiting discussions about race and history in schools. The policy prompted some teachers to cease some civics lessons and a number of school districts changed their curriculums to avoid violating the law.

The law, which went into effect in the fall of 2021, states that social studies teachers cannot include in their courses the notion that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

What this means in practice is it ensures teachers limit lessons on white supremacy, the history of slavery in the US, or explaining sexist differences such as the pay gap between men and women.

“A teacher may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs,” the law says.

The president of the Texas Council for the Social Studies, Renee Blackmon, told CNN at the time, “We do teach current events and present both sides, our teachers weren’t teaching critical race theory in their classrooms.”

She added: “There are people who believe they were probably because we do not have the public nor our state leaders in agreement about what really critical race theory is and what it encompasses. There’s this misinformation that has clouded things.”

Revelers take part in the Miami Beach Pride Parade on Ocean Drive on April 14, 2024, in Miami Beach, Florida (AFP via Getty Images)
Revelers take part in the Miami Beach Pride Parade on Ocean Drive on April 14, 2024, in Miami Beach, Florida (AFP via Getty Images)

‘Don’t Say Gay’

In one of the more famous examples of banning discussions in schools, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacted the law critics refer to as “Don’t Say Gay” in 2022, banning classroom discussions and instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity through the third grade. Last year, the legislation was amended to go all the way through 12th grade.

DeSantis also signed a bill preventing school staff or students from having to use a person’s preferred pronouns, and the law also bans staff from asking students what pronouns they prefer and from sharing their own pronouns if they don’t correspond with their sex, PBS noted.

“A person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and ... it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex,” the law states. The laws were widely panned by human rights advocates and progressive rights groups.

“All Florida students and families deserve to be protected, respected, and embraced, and these laws do just the opposite,” said Tiffani Lennon, then-executive director of ACLU Florida.

KKK law used to target college protesters

Several states have targeted pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses, with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently vetoing a bill pushed by Republicans banning the wearing of masks and hoods and which changed the punishments for protests that hinder the use of streets.

In Ohio, the state’s Attorney General Dave Yost threatened to use a 1953 law aimed at the KKK to also prevent protesters from wearing masks. Yost sent a letter to the state’s public universities that the law could be used to charge students with felonies if they wear masks while protesting the war in Gaza.

“In our society, there are few more significant career-wreckers than a felony charge,” Yost wrote in the letter. “I write to you today to inform your student bodies of an Ohio law that, in the context of some behavior during the recent pro-Palestinian protests, could have that effect.”

The law states: “No person shall unite with two or more others to commit a misdemeanor while wearing white caps, masks, or other disguise.”

Banning masks on the New York subway due to them being worn by pro-Palestinian protesters has received support from New York Governor Kathy Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams, even though many commuters also wear face masks to protect themselves from illnesses such as Covid-19.

People carry an
People carry an "Appeal To Heaven" flag as they gather at Independence Mall to support President Donald Trump during a visit to the National Constitution Center to participate in the ABC News town hall, Sept. 15, 2020, in Philadelphia (AP)

The Christian Nationalist movement

Oklahoma’s top school official said this week that classroom curriculum must include teaching the Bible and the Ten Commandements.

“Effective immediately, all Oklahoma schools are required to incorporate the Bible, which includes the Ten Commandments, as an instructional support into the curriculum” in grades 5 through 12, read a statement from Republican school superintendent Ryan Walters.

Like Louisiana, further legal challenges are expected, but these changes are seen by many as yet another step into the realm of Christian Nationalism for the Republican Party.

The movement seeks to create a country ruled by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible and it has allied itself with former President Donald Trump.

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag used during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot and seen flying outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, has been linked to Christian Nationalism.

Similarly, the Alabama Supreme Court’s February ruling stating that frozen embryos are children is also connected to the movement, Axios noted. The state top court’s chief justice, Tom Parker, pointed to the Bible in his opinion on the matter and said “God created government” on a Christian podcast. 

“The fact that we have let it go into the possession of others, it’s heartbreaking for those of us who understand. And we know it is for Him," he added.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has referred to the separation of church and state as a “misnomer” and Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has said that she’s a “proud Christian nationalist.”

The legislation on displaying the Ten Commandments and referring to transgender students by the pronouns for the gender that corresponds to their sex reveals that Louisiana Republicans, headed by Landry, intend to be leaders in the growing Christian Nationalist movement on the right, according to some analysts.

A political science professor at Louisiana State University, Robert Hogan, told The New York Times that “Christian conservatives in this state have been a force for a very long time.”

He added: “They view him as a champion of their cause, and this consolidates that.”