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Plaintiffs ask Louisiana judge to bar implementation of Ten Commandments law immediately – Baptist News Global

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Plaintiffs ask Louisiana judge to bar implementation of Ten Commandments law immediately – Baptist News Global


Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against mandatory Ten Commandments displays in Louisiana public classrooms have asked a federal court to bar implementation of the new law as their litigation proceeds.

Signed into law June 19, House Bill 71 requires the posting of framed or poster copies of the Decalogue in every state-funded grade school and college classroom no later than Jan. 1, 2025.

The plaintiffs’ July 8 motion for preliminary injunction in Roake v. Brumley asks the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana also to prevent the displays from going up prior to next year’s deadline.

Darcy Roake

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“We are eager to ensure that our family’s religious-freedom rights are protected from day one of the upcoming school year,” said co-plaintiff Darcy Roake, a Unitarian Universalist minister and parent of two children.

“The Ten Commandments displays required under state law will create an unwelcoming and oppressive school environment for children, like ours, who don’t believe in the state’s official version of Scripture,” she said. “We believe that no child should feel excluded in public school because of their family’s faith tradition, and we are optimistic that the court will grant our motion for a preliminary injunction.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have requested a hearing on the motion during the week of July 29 and hope for a ruling before school starts Aug. 8, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

AU, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Louisiana, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Simpson Thacher and Bartlett law firm are representing the nine Christian, Jewish and non-religious families in the action. The complaint filed June 24 alleges Louisiana’s law, which also mandates use of a Protestant version of the Ten Commandments, violates plaintiffs’ rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment and Free Exercise clauses.

“This lawsuit is necessary to protect the religious freedom of Louisiana public school children and their families,” AU President Rachel Laser said when the suit was filed June 24.

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“Not just in Louisiana, but all across the country, Christian nationalists are seeking to infiltrate our public schools and force everyone to live by their beliefs. Secular, inclusive public schools that welcome all students regardless of their belief system form the backbone of our diverse and religiously pluralistic communities,” she said. “This nation must recommit to our foundational principle of church-state separation before it’s too late. Public education, religious freedom and democracy are all on the line.”

“This lawsuit is necessary to protect the religious freedom of Louisiana public school children and their families.”

Louisiana’s translation and its specific redacting of the commandments is especially troublesome, Freedom from Religion attorney and legal fellow Sammi Lawrence said during a recent edition of the organization’s “Ask an Atheist” webinar.

“This is problematic for a wide variety of reasons, including that the government is choosing a specific interpretation and translation of the Ten Commandments. I’m sure our audience knows, and probably Christians and religious people in the U.S. know that the Ten Commands vary from sect to sect, religion to religion. There are many different interpretations and translations of them.”

This is why Louisiana’s mandated version of the scriptural passage is not numbered and actually presents 12 commandment lines, FFRF Legal Director Patrick Elliott added. “Even Christians are surprised that these are excerpts from the Bible and from, in this instance, one specific translation of the Bible which seems to exclude not just Jews and other individuals that wouldn’t use that translation, but even some Christians.”

Separately, the Christian social action group Faithful America issued a petition and statement July 9 condemning Oklahoma’s new requirement that the Bible be physically present and taught in all public school classrooms. The call to action included a warning about Louisiana’s Ten Commandments law.

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“Forcing Christianity on others is theocracy — and coercion is the opposite of Christ-like love. Let’s speak out publicly together to make it clear … that Christians support religious freedom for all,” the organization said.

 

Related articles:

Jesus and the Ten Commandments | Opinion by Chuck Poole

That Ten Commandments law isn’t the worst thing about Louisiana’s ‘Dream Big’ act for public education | Analysis by Mara Richards Bim

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The Ten Commandments meet the Golden Rule | Opinion by Greg Hunt

Fighting Ten Commandments law is part of ‘the civil rights movement of our generation,’ ACLU leader says

Why is this still happening? | Opinion by Holly Hollman



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Louisiana Provider Supports Local Business Digital Development

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Louisiana Provider Supports Local Business Digital Development


Louisiana

The provider will award grants to ensure small businesses can connect to digital resources.

Louisiana Provider Supports Local Business Digital Development
Photo of SWLA Economic Development Alliance CEO George Swift

July 13, 2024 – Internet service provider Optimum Business and the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance jointly announced a $90,000 grant program that will fund 30 businesses in Louisiana and distribute $3,000 to each recipient to support digital adoption.

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The SWLA Alliance will offer grant winners access to services that will ensure that the businesses have the resources they need to succeed in the digital economy.

“Optimum Business recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in the economic and social well-being of Southwest Louisiana, and we are proud to support them with the reliable and innovative connectivity solutions they need to evolve and thrive in a digital economy,” said Jesse Garcia, vice president of Mid Central at Optimum.

Garcia added that the grant helps “small businesses access the tools, resources, and opportunities they need to grow and prosper so that they can continue supporting their local communities.”

The companies “are offering 30 businesses a unique opportunity to share their stories and learn how technology and innovation can help them grow and thrive,” said George Swift, president and CEO of the SWLA Alliance.

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Eligible businesses must have a brick-and-mortar location in Optimum’s service area,  been open for a minimum of two years, have 10 or fewer employees. Applications are due  by August 16. 

Applications must demonstrate that the company will use the money to support its expansion and growth and contribute positively to the community.

The program expects to announce grant recipients in the fall. 



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Historically Black Cancer Alley town splits over a planned grain terminal in Louisiana

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Historically Black Cancer Alley town splits over a planned grain terminal in Louisiana


WALLACE, La. — Sisters Jo and Dr. Joy Banner live just miles from where their ancestors were enslaved more than 200 years ago in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Their tidy Creole cottage cafe in the small, river-front town of Wallace lies yards away from property their great-grandparents bought more than a century ago.

It’s a historic area the sisters have dedicated themselves to keeping free of the heavy industry that lines the opposite shore of the Mississippi River.

“We have all these little pockets of free towns surrounding these plantation cane fields. It’s such a great story of tenacity and how we were able to be financially independent and economically savvy,” Joy Banner said.

Today, miles of sugar cane border homes on Wallace’s west side. Eastward, two plantations tell the story of formerly enslaved people: One has more than a dozen slave quarters, the other a memorial commemorating a slave revolt.

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Directly across the Mississippi, refineries and other heavy industry crowd the view, showing Wallace residents exactly what the Banners are fighting against taking over their side of the river. Together they created a nonprofit called The Descendants Project to preserve Black Louisianans’ culture. The immediate goal is to stop a 222-acre (89.8-hectare) proposed grain export facility from being built within 300 feet (91 meters) of the Banners’ property and near several historic sites.

“It would essentially pave the way for the whole entire West Bank area that doesn’t have any heavy industry on it to just be industrialized,” Jo Banner said. “We have a lot of heritage and that’s going to be decimated if we get these plants.”

Their sentiments echo those of residents who live in other towns along Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, an 85-mile (135-kilometer) corridor running along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It’s filled with industrial plants that emit toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens.

The Descendants’ Project has tangled with Greenfield Louisiana LLC, the company proposing the grain terminal, as well as the local St. John the Baptist Parish Council for nearly two years, seeking to prevent the Greenfield Wallace Grain Export Facility from being built.

The facility would receive and export grain byproducts via trucks, trains and barges. While some town residents support the project, the Banners and other neighbors fear it will eradicate historic landmarks and pollute the area.

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“We already have issues with industry from the other side of the river,” said Gail Zeringue, whose husband’s family purchased their property in the late 19th century. “To add to that with a grain elevator is just piling it on.”

The parish council recently rezoned nearly 1,300 acres (526 hectares) of commercial and residential property for heavy industry. Another swath along a residential zone was redesignated for light industry. All the tracts are owned by the Port of Louisiana and have been leased to Greenfield Louisiana LLC.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found the grain facility could adversely affect several historic properties in and around Wallace, including the Evergreen, Oak Alley and Whitney plantations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the terminal could add to the “many existing manufacturing industries and other existing sources of environmental burden for the St. John the Baptist Parish community.”

After nearly two years, Greenfield is still waiting for the permitting process to be complete.

“It appears to me that the Army Corps wants to make sure that everyone is heard,” said Lynda Van Davis, counsel and head of external affairs for Greenfield Louisiana. “Before we did anything, we talked to the community first, and so our system is safer and it’s green.”

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The facility will be used for transportation and there will be no chemicals or manufacturing on site, which Greenfield representatives said sets them apart. They also plan multiple dust collection systems to minimize emissions.

They are aware of Wallace’s historical significance, Van Davis said.

“We had testing done. We made sure that there were no remains of any prior slaves that were maybe buried in the area,” Van Davis said. “In the event that we do find any remains or maybe some artifacts, we would stop and make sure that the right people come in and preserve any artifacts that are found.”

Specifically, Greenfield said the State Historic Preservation Office would step in. The Amistad Research Center, the Louisiana Civil Rights Museum and the state park system are also potential partners to help decide what to do with any artifacts or remains that might be discovered.

Some neighbors are more worried about Wallace’s future than its past. They’re concerned the town’s prosperity hangs on whether the facility is approved. Wallace doesn’t even have a gas station, and school enrollment has been declining.

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“The only changes I’ve seen in my community are people leaving. We have absolutely nothing on our West Bank,” said Willa Gordon, a lifelong resident.

“It automatically meant to me jobs coming into my community and economic development and growth, so I was very excited. I’m disappointed that, years later, it’s still not here,” Nicole Dumas said.

Greenfield plans to create more than 1,000 new jobs during construction and 370 permanent positions once the site opens. The company also has promised to host local job fairs, training and certification programs.

St. John the Baptist Parish council members Virgie Johnson and Lennix Madere Jr., the elected officials who represent Wallace, declined to comment on the proposed construction. Both voted in favor of the zoning change.

The tug-of-war between past and present is a similar one across the country, with small, historic Black towns dwindling due to gentrification, industry or lack of resources.

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Through their nonprofit, the Banners want to create a network of historic communities and economic opportunity. They recently moved a plantation house their ancestors once lived in to their property in hopes it can be designated a historical marker and prevent any industrial building on their land.

“We are doing what we can to protect and to hold on, but it’s so crucial that we keep these plants out,” Jo Banner said.



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La. car and truck dealers drive $19.2B in 2023, how other industries manage transportation

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La. car and truck dealers drive $19.2B in 2023, how other industries manage transportation


MONROE, La. (KNOE) – According to the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association’s June 2024 economic impact report, the state’s franchised new car and heavy truck dealers collectively generated $19.2 billion in total sales in 2023.

General Manager Jeff Churchwell of Northeast Louisiana Power Cooperative, Inc. said he normally buys gently used bucket trucks for their linemen but was forced to buy a new truck due to a long wait period.

“It’s $240,000. So, I typically don’t buy one – brand new, but they had no slightly used trucks. So, I put in an order, and my salesman told me that… he said – well, your spot in the queue is for 28. I said, ‘28 months?’ He said no… 2028,” said Churchwell.

President and CEO Coulter McMahen of LADA stated the industry continues to be an economic driver – having a combined payroll amounting to $1.5 billion dollars for the dealerships’ employees. The association’s economic impact report said Louisiana’s new car and heavy truck dealerships employed an average of 55 Louisiana residents earning over $75,000 annually in 2023. The association explained that this kind of compensation contributes significantly to statewide economic enthusiasm, generating more than $325 million in state and federal income taxes combined.

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“Our industry provides consumer choice, accessibility and market competition for buyers. It also offers steady careers for employees, all contributing to Louisiana’s prosperity and advancement,” said McMahen.

But for other industries, it comes with a challenging cost to obtain and maintain trucks to make sure crews are out in the communities doing their jobs; and Churchwell said, most importantly, keeping linemen safe.

“We have a good number of trucks, so with hurricane season – what it really does, is – it limits the availability to go help others. So, if your fleet is down and one of my co-op brothers in south Louisiana that gets hit – it does make it difficult and that’s when you have to depend on… you call in contractors,” said Churchwell.

LADA reported that new vehicle sales alone contributed a substantial $672 million in sales tax revenue for Louisiana. The recently released economic impact report also writes that state dealerships contributed more than $18 million to nonprofit organizations.

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