Americans United Derails Louisiana Commandments Bill

After Americans United’s Baton Rouge Chapter sent a letter raising church-state objections, the Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee has sidetracked a bill calling for the display of the Ten Commandments at the state capitol.

A day prior to the June 15 committee hearing on the measure, AU Baton Rouge Chapter President Thomas J. Hannie Jr. laid out the case against HB 277.

“Even adherents to the Commandments have significant disagreements about their text and meaning,” observed Hannie. “The disagreements lie not only among Jews and Christians, but among Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestants. Nor do the Commandments hold religious meaning for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, or the many Louisianans who practice other religions or no religion at all. Because the Ten Commandments are a religious text for some – but by no means all – Louisianans, authorizing the government to display them is fraught with constitutional risk.”

In addition, the letter noted that the government display of a sectarian text is inherently divisive.

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn also weighed in on the issue.

“The Louisiana state government should not meddle in religious matters,” he said in a press statement. “If legislators want an educational display about the law at the capitol, I’d recommend they put up a monument to the Bill of Rights.”

The Senate committee voted 5-2 against the Commandments proposal, which had breezed through the House of Representatives unanimously. The senators worried that the threat of a lawsuit was too high, and the state could not afford litigation.