Last week, Mississippi lawmaker, Rep. Credell Calhoun (D), introduced a bill that would require public schools to post the Ten Commandments in every classroom, auditorium and cafeteria, and require teachers to read to the Ten Commandments aloud to their class each morning. In addition, the bill would also require all schools to begin each day with a 60-second moment of reflection.
Public schools are for everybody. No students should feel excluded in their own school because of their beliefs.
This bill would clearly violate the U.S. Constitution. It was nearly 40 years ago when the Supreme Court, in Stone v. Graham, held that public schools may not display the Ten Commandments. The Court explained that hanging the Ten Commandments “induce[s] the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments.” Forcing students to listen to their teachers recite the Ten Commandments as well would be an even more clear violation.
Imagine being a student at a Mississippi public school if this bill were passed: you would start each day by entering a classroom that displays both the Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” (already required in Mississippi) on the wall, listening to your teacher recite the Ten Commandments, and then pausing for a “moment of quiet reflection.” You would feel more like you were in a Sunday school classroom than a public school classroom.
Public schools are for everybody. No students should feel excluded in their own school because of their beliefs, and no parent should have to worry that their children are being given religious instruction in a public school. Students, of course, may engage in student-initiated, voluntary and non-disruptive, religious activity. That, however, is not what this bill is about. This bill would clearly coerce students into engaging in religious activities.
We’ve been fighting bills like this for more than 70 years and we will oppose this and other similar bills in state legislatures as well. Join us in our fight to ensure all students feel welcome at public schools.