Veto Petition

 

Petition Requesting Veto of H.B. 71

May 31, 2024

The Honorable Jeff Landry
Governor, State of Louisiana
PO Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

VIA EMAIL

Dear Governor Landry,

We are pastors and active church-goers from across Louisiana who are writing to urge you to veto H.B. 71, which requires every elementary, secondary and post-secondary public school to display a frankensteinian version of the Ten Commandments in every single classroom. We value the right of all families to determine the religious education of their children and are appalled to see public officials claiming that right for themselves.

H.B. 71 violates the religious freedom of every student, staff member and community volunteer in our public schools, no matter their religious beliefs. The government should not be in the business of promoting religion or dictating an official state-approved version of any religious text.

The responsibility of religious education belongs to families, churches and other religious institutions, not the government. Our communities of faith exist to help individuals and families grapple with applying biblical truth in our modern times. We do not need or want legislators and other government officials interfering with and usurping this sacred role.

Different faith traditions treat the scripture in which the Ten Commandments appear differently. In attempting to reconcile and cobble together these varying interpretations, the text of the display mandated by H.B. 71 manages to produce a hodgepodge of holy scripture that includes twelve, not ten, commandments and fails to respect the beliefs of many Christians. Nor does this state-dictated language honor or reflect the beliefs of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Indeed, the state-approved version of the Ten Commandments set forth in H.B. 71 does not exist in any translation of the Bible. It is simply not possible to create a version of the Ten Commandments that honors every faith tradition’s interpretation, and legislators’ attempt to do so is deeply offensive to us as Christians.

The State of Louisiana has no business choosing an official version of the Ten Commandments, especially one that strips the text of its theological context. And the state certainly has no business mandating that this officially sanctioned version of the Ten Commandments be hung in every public school classroom, where teachers educate students who follow a broad array of Christian and non-Christian faith traditions.

If you fail to veto H.B. 71, these students’ and families’ religious freedom rights will be infringed on a daily basis. Moreover, every public school teacher will be put in the unenviable position of explaining to Christian students why the scripture displayed in their classroom does not match the New International Version (NIV), King James Version (KJV) or other translation that a family has chosen to use in their home. Our public school teachers already carry a great load. You should not add biblical expert to their already full plates. We do not need to turn public schools into Sunday schools. Veto H.B. 71 and leave biblical instruction and religious education where it belongs—with our families, churches and religious institutions!

Respectfully,