Louisiana Faces Commandments Conundrum

Ed Brayton finds the Louisiana State Legislature playing God—or at the very least Moses, as lawmakers attempt to come up with a version of the Ten Commandments that Catholics, Protestants, and Jews can agree on:

The bill would allow the display of the Ten Commandments, along with other documents of religious historical significance, in government buildings.

The wording of the bill is designed to comply with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding the separation of government and religion.

The committee didn’t settle on the version to include but did amend the more Protestant-oriented version in the bill after a civil-rights lobbyist noted some disparities.

“It says ‘murder’ rather than ‘kill,'” said Michael Malec, noting the Sixth Commandment, which commonly reads “Thou shalt not kill.”

“We can change that,” replied Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, who handled the bill for its absent author, Sen. James David Cain, R-Dry Creek.

While the committee was at it, Bruneau said it might as well change the spelling of “honor” in the Fifth Commandment — “Honor thy father and thy mother” — which in the bill was spelled “honour.” …

First Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Bob Downing, who at one time displayed the Ten Commandments in his office, said the version should be left up to the group installing the display.

“Generally, people don’t have a clue what the difference is between the Protestant and Catholic versions,” said Downing. “Go to different people and ask them what’s the difference.”

I’m not sure which outcome is worse: a legislative committee deciding to rewrite the Ten Commandments to find a compromise, or various religious groups squabbling over whose version of the Commandments will be displayed in public spaces.

FILED UNDER: Religion, Supreme Court, US Politics, , ,
Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. Joel says:

    – Catholics, Protestants, and Jews can agree on: –

    Not sure if this is even possible. Here’s hoping:)

  2. Anderson says:

    To steal from Winston Churchill, the legislature will probably compromise on 38 Commandments.

  3. McGehee says:

    To steal from Winston Churchill, the legislature will probably compromise on 38 Commandments.

    You mean 38 “ethical guidelines.” And they’ll appoint a standing committee with the express mission of ignoring all violations of those guidelines.