UPDATE: Senate Bill 2308 has been sent to the Governor for signature / veto.
Senate Bill 2308, legislation that would allow public schools to post copies of the Ten Commandments in classrooms and other school spaces. It’s an unnecessary, unconstitutional bill that, if passed, would likely mean costly litigation for North Dakota schools.
Students already have the right to engage in religious exercise and expression at school under current law. Students may, for example, voluntarily pray, real religious literature or engage in other religious activities during recess or lunch. The ACLU has long worked to protect the religious exercise and religious expression rights of students of all faiths in public schools.
But there’s a stark difference between voluntary, student-initiated religious exercise and school-sponsored promotion of religion. Court precedent confirms this.
More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court said in Stone v. Graham that “if the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.”