Legislature taking on religion-related issues – American Press

Legislature taking on religion-related issues

Published 11:57 am Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Louisiana House has approved two religion-related measures by wide margins and sent them to the state Senate. One would require that public schools display the Ten Commandments in every classroom. The other authorizes schools to bring in chaplains to work with students.

Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, author of the first measure, said, “The Ten Commandments are the basis of all laws in Louisiana and given the junk our children are exposed to in classrooms today, it’s imperative that we put the Ten Commandments back in a prominent position.”

The Advocate in its report on the legislation said last year Horton successfully shepherded a bill requiring classrooms to display the U.S. motto, “In God We Trust.”

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last year signed a law allowing school districts to hire chaplains or use them as volunteers. The newspaper said 13 other states have introduced similar bills.

Horton’s House Bill 71 passed the House 82-19. Rep. Wilford Carter, D-Lake Charles, was the only area House member to vote against the bill. Republican Reps. Ryan Bourriaque of Grand Lake, Dewith Carrier of Oakdale, Les Farnum of Sulphur, Brett Geymann of Moss Bluff, Charles Owen of Rosepine, Troy Romero of Jennings, Rodney Schamerhorn of Hornbeck, and Phillip Tarver of Lake Charles.

Rep. Beryl Amedee’s HB 334, the chaplains’ measure, passed 86-6. All nine members of the area House delegation voted for the bill. Amedee is a Republican from Gray, La.

The Advocate said both measures highlight the increasingly blurry divide between church and state that’s become more common in many Republican states. Critics question the constitutionality of the legislation.

House members also gave an overwhelming vote to HB 737, by Rep. Kellee Hennessy Dickerson, R-Denham Springs. It could potentially outlaw protests or any gathering near a  residence — even on a public street, according to a report in the Louisiana Illuminator.

Critics say the legislation eliminates a person’s First Amendment right to assemble on public property. The vote was 85-18 with Carter voting against it and the Republicans voting for it.

A Senate committee rejected a bill that would have allowed new trials for hundreds of Louisiana prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries. Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, sponsored the measure that was rejected 4-3.

The Louisiana District Attorney Association argued the bill would saddle prosecutors’ offices with a crush of ancient cases to retry.

Early in the week, the House approved HB 745 with a 72-32 vote that would offer all parents thousands of dollars per year to help pay for private school. It is a school choice bill offering education savings accounts (ESAs). The bill is in the Senate.

Bourriaque, Farnum, Owen, Romero, Schamerhorn, and Tarver voted for it. Carrier, Carter, and Geymann were opposed.

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