North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has signed into law a bill allowing public schools to put up copies of the Ten Commandments in their buildings or individual classrooms… while making them immune from liability in case they get sued over it. The same bill also permits students to recite the (religious) Pledge of Allegiance.
Senate Bill No. 2308 was sponsored by five Republicans and required a very important change before it was passed. While the original version was only about the Decalogue — and was arguably an illegal promotion of Christianity — the final version changed the language to allow schools to “display the ten commandments with a display of other historical documents in the school and in a classroom.”
In other words, the law is intended to follow Supreme Court precedent which says you can put up the Ten Commandments on government property but only if it’s part of some larger display… that way it doesn’t look like a religious endorsement… even though we all know that’s what it is.
Still, it may not be enough, in part because the Supreme Court case in question involved a State Capitol, not a school. (It’s the same principle that says invocation prayers are permitted at city council meetings, but not at school board meetings, since the latter necessarily involves children.)
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been tracking the North Dakota legislation, said in a statement Tuesday that passage of the legislation would invite litigation. The organization noted that not a single court has upheld the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools, even if they are displayed with other material.
It also doesn’t help that the bill’s supporters don’t even try to hide their Christian Nationalist tendencies.
“We need to get back to what we were founded on,” said GOP Rep. Terry Jones, who leads a church congregation in New Town and carried the bill on the House floor. “If we will go back to that foundation, there will be a lot more happiness and civility in our nation.”
Bullshit. We weren’t founded on Christian Nationalism. Also, students’ lives aren’t better because they have to stare at a list of rules in a public school that includes mandates against believing in “false” gods, not making idols of their gods, taking God’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath day holy.
It’s also weird to tell kids to avoid committing adultery. And if students need a sign to remind them not to murder others, they have bigger problems.
Jones may not be the best spokesperson, anyway. He’s the guy who, earlier this year, said Black people were “glad their ancestors were brought here as slaves.” He also has to issue an apology after forwarding a QAnon video to all the other lawmakers in the state. He also filed a wildly radical anti-LGBTQ bill earlier this year. That one thankfully didn’t go anywhere.
Jones wasn’t the only supporter, though, and everyone who voted for this bill should be ashamed of themselves. It does absolutely nothing to help students. This is a gift to the Christian Right and nothing more. It’s a way to shove religion in school while (ironically) lying about that objective.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)