A photo of Royce Duplessis with the title secularist of the week and A photo of Dodie Horton with the title Theocrat of the Week

This week’s “secularist” and “theocrat” clash over La. 10 commandments bill 

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Louisiana may soon become the first state to require the Ten Commandments to be posted in all public schools from K-12 to university. FFRF Action Fund’s “Secularist of the Week” has spoken out against the clear unconstitutional proposal, while our “Theocrat of the Week” introduced the bill and has continually perpetuated the myth that the U.S. has religious origins. 

Its sponsor, La. state Rep. Dodie Horton, representing the 9th District, professed that the Ten Commandments are the “basis of all laws in Louisiana” during a House debate last month. 

“I hope and I pray that Louisiana is the first state to allow moral code to be placed back in the classrooms,” inveighed Horton. “Since I was in kindergarten [at a private school], it was always on the wall. I learned there was a god, and I knew to honor him and his laws.”

Horton dismissed state/church objections, saying: “I’m not concerned with an atheist. I’m not concerned with a Muslim. I’m concerned with our children looking and seeing what God’s law is.” 

Last year, Horton introduced a bill requiring all public classrooms to display “In God We Trust,” which became the first law to require the phrase in every room. Horton is clearly a champion for Christian nationalist ideals in Louisiana, working to cement a favored place for Christianity in what should be secular and inclusive public schools. 

During House Bill 71’s Senate floor debate, our “Secularist of the Week” was the only senator to speak in opposition of the bill’s passage. La. Sen. Royce Duplessis, representing Louisiana’s 5th District, is a practicing Catholic who understands the need for separation of state and church. Asserts Duplessis, “You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to see that this is problematic. It flies in the face of the First Amendment.” 

Duplessis added, “I didn’t have to learn the Ten Commandments in school. We went to Sunday school. You want your kids to learn about the Ten Commandments, take them to church.” Duplessis warned that the legislation will open the state up to lawsuits: “We’re going to spend valuable state resources defending the law when we really need to be teaching our kids how to read and write. I don’t think this is appropriate for us to mandate.”

Duplessis noted, “We know that every child does not celebrate or that the Ten Commandments are [not] a part of their faith. We shouldn’t isolate or make any kid feel like their faith doesn’t matter.”

Despite these cogent, conscientious arguments against it, Horton’s bill passed the Louisiana Senate in a 30-8 vote, with all “nay” votes coming from Democrats. After the Louisiana Senate passed House Bill 71  last week, it went back to the House to approve Senate amendments before it can be sent to Gov. Jeff Landry for signature. If enacted, it will become a national test case. Our “secularist” was correct when he said Louisiana’s Ten Commandments bill will invite lawsuits for the state. 

“The Louisiana Legislature’s hostility toward the secular principles undergirding our democracy, and its desire to force biblical edicts upon a captive audience of children for 12-plus years of education, are simply deplorable,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Action Fund President, “We commend Duplessis for speaking up for the essential principle of  separation between state and church.”

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.