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Take Me to Church: Pounding Against the Wall of Separation

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Louisiana keeps pounding its fists against what Thomas Jefferson called the “wall of separation of church and state”. For example, Louisiana is not complying with the marriage decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Marriage, as an institution between a man and a woman, was established by God. It cannot be altered by an earthly court,” Governor Bobby Jindal told the press, during a campaign stop in Iowa Friday.

While a certain portion of this stance can be attributed to Jindal’s presidential ambition, he is far from alone in battering against that wall.

“As a very devout Christian, I want to be sure that what we do has favor, not only with God, but also with man,” state senator Gerald Long of Winnfield said in an interview during the legislative session.

Long authored a resolution supporting the rights of students and teachers to hold religious assemblies and express their religious beliefs in public schools.

“Free expression of religion is part of who we are as Americans,” Long said.

98 House members and all 39 senators voted for the measure –despite dozens of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, going back to 1962, which have drawn bright lines separating church from state in public schools.

The fifth annual attempt to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act failed this past session, as well, despite –or perhaps because of – testimony like this from citizen-activist Zack Kopplin.

“I have proof that the LSEA is allowing teachers to sneak creationism into their public school science classes, as the act’s proponents designed it to do,” Kopplin told the Senate Education Committee.

The LSEA, adopted in 2008, permits teaching of alternative theories to evolution, origins of life, and global warming. It was enacted 21 years after Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment Act”, requiring equal instructional time be given to evolution and creationism, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Edwards v. Aguillard. A 2014 effort to remove the unconstitutional Balanced Treatment Act from Louisiana’s lawbooks failed in the Senate.

On the other hand, a House committee refused to advance Bossier City Rep. Mike Johnson’s controversial “Marriage and Conscience Act” this past session.

“It’s a pretty basic protection for religious freedom,” Johnson said of the bill, which would prohibit the state from penalizing someone who discriminated against another, due to “deeply-held religious beliefs regarding traditional marriage.”

Gov. Jindal in effect overrode the legislature, by issuing an executive order implementing the provisions of that bill.

“This is a prohibition on the state taking action against somebody for their beliefs,” Jindal said at the time. This past Friday, he was touting the need for that executive order as a protection for believers who are threatened by the Obergefell decision.

Over the weekend, the governor modified his stance slightly, now saying Louisiana will eventually comply with the marriage ruling.

Efforts to blend church with state won’t be resolved as quickly.