Louisiana Ten Commandments lawsuit plaintiffs seek preliminary injunction 

The plaintiffs in Roake v. Brumley filed a motion for a preliminary injunction today in an effort to stop officials in Louisiana from implementing a new law mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in every public-school classroom.

In their motion, the plaintiffs ask the court to issue an order that blocks the defendants from posting the Ten Commandments in public schools or taking any other action to carry out the statute while the lawsuit remains pending. Emphasizing the urgent need for judicial intervention, the plaintiffs’ brief supporting their motion explains:
When students across Louisiana, including the minor-child plaintiffs, return to school this August, they will be subjected — as early as their first day of school and no later than the act’s Jan. 1, 2025, compliance deadline — to unavoidable, permanently displayed religious directives such as “I AM the LORD thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”; “Thou shalt not make thyself any graven images.”; “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.”; “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”; and “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

As argued in the brief, these displays will violate longstanding Supreme Court precedent. More than 40 years ago, in Stone v. Graham, the Supreme Court overturned a similar state law, holding that the separation of church and state bars public schools from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

The plaintiffs comprise a multifaith group of nine Louisiana families with children in public schools. They are represented by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP serving as pro bono counsel.

In addition to their motion for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs also filed today a motion to expedite briefing and the court’s consideration of their injunction request.

In response to today’s filings, Rev. Darcy Roake, a plaintiff in the case, issued the following statement: “We are eager to ensure that our family’s religious-freedom rights are protected from day one of the upcoming school year. The Ten Commandments displays required under state law will create an unwelcoming and oppressive school environment for children, like ours, who don’t believe in the state’s official version of scripture. We believe that no child should feel excluded in public school because of their family’s faith tradition, and we are optimistic that the court will grant our motion for a preliminary injunction.”

Signed into law on June 19 by Gov. Jeff Landry, HB 71 requires public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom on “a poster or framed document that is at least 11 inches by 14 inches.” The commandments must be the “central focus” of the display and “printed in a large, easily readable font.” The bill also requires that a specific version of the Ten Commandments, which is associated with Protestant beliefs, be used for every display. Plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on June 24, alleging in their complaint that the law violates their rights under the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A copy of this press release can be found online here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.

For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all. For more information on the ACLU, visit www.aclu.org.

Freedom From Religion Foundation