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Midway through June, the state of Louisiana made a splashy addition to the ongoing debate over religious freedom in education by passing a law that will require public schools to display a copy of the Ten Commandments in every classroom.

The new law raises questions about past rulings on the Ten Commandments, related policy proposals in states like Utah and the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the southeast, Oklahoma brought even more questions about religious freedom in education to the fore last week by announcing that all public schools in the state will be required to teach the Ten Commandments and the Bible more broadly.

“It was not immediately clear how the Bible would be taught or what instructional standards around it would require. A memo to Oklahoma school districts from (state superintendent Ryan) Walters’s office said schools ‘are required to incorporate the Bible, which includes the Ten Commandments,’ into curriculum for fifth through 12th grades, effective immediately,” according to The Washington Post.

Oklahoma’s state superintendent explained the decision by pointing to the Bible’s role in American history.

“The Bible is a necessary historical document to teach our kids about the history of this country, to have a complete understanding of Western civilization, to have an understanding of the basis of our legal system — and is frankly, we’re talking about the Bible, one of the most foundational documents used for the Constitution and the birth of our country,” Walters said, per The Washington Post.

Like Louisiana’s new law, Oklahoma’s decision will likely spark lawsuits.

It’s not new for the Bible to be used in history or literature classes, but it is unusual for such instruction to be required.


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Term of the week: Ultra-Orthodox

I suppose the term ultra-Orthodox is self-explanatory. It refers to someone who is ultra — intensely, extremely, mucho — Orthodox compared to other members of their faith group.

The descriptor was in the news last week after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men must no longer be exempted from the country’s military service requirements.

At least some ultra-Orthodox men have been exempt from military service since Israel’s founding and, in recent decades, the share of men benefitting from the exemption has grown to around 13% of the country’s population, according to The Associated Press.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose military service because they believe they are meant to spend all their time studying in religious seminaries, the article said.


What I’m reading...

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Comments

I’m reading a lot about James Corrigan, one of the two male steeplechasers from BYU who are headed to the Olympics. Deseret’s Doug Robinson wrote an amazing story about what it took for Corrigan to have a chance to meet the Olympic qualifying time and then followed it up with a story about him making the most of that opportunity with a miraculous run on Saturday night.

In preparation for an event called the National Eucharistic Congress, Catholic pilgrims are traveling across the country in cars, on boats and by foot toward Indianapolis. The Associated Press recently caught up with one group of pilgrims in Steubenville, Ohio, watching Catholics of all ages celebrate the unique event. “Among those in the procession were seminarians in black cassocks, nuns in habits, girls in First Communion dresses, and members of lay orders in traditional garb. One girl’s T-shirt proclaimed, ‘Get holy or die tryin’,’” the article said.


Odds and ends

I was recently on the “Legal Spirits” podcast to talk about my coverage of one Knights of Columbus council’s brief legal battle with the National Park Service.

Last week, I received a first-place award from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists for this very newsletter! Thanks to all you readers for supporting me on my newsletter journey and thanks to my editor, Krysyan Edler.

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