Plus, a reader question about Colorado's ballots.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 13 minutes.

Today, we are breaking down a new Louisiana law mandating the Ten Commandments be posted in public schools. Plus, a reader question about Colorado's ballots.


On Friday, we published a members-only piece by editor Will Kaback making the case that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the most important factor in the 2024 election. You can read that piece here.

Quick hits.

  1. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of illegally obtaining and disclosing national security material in return for his release from a British prison. (The deal)
  2. New York, Utah, and Colorado are holding primary elections today. Notable races include a challenge to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), a crowded race to succeed Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) first election since switching districts. (The races)
  3. European Union regulators accused Apple of breaching the bloc’s Digital Markets Act and said they had opened a new investigation into whether the company’s practices complied with other elements of the law. (The allegations)
  4. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared gun violence a public health crisis, the first urgent pronouncement on deaths related to firearms from a surgeon general. (The pronouncement)
  5. A U.S. bankruptcy court trustee announced plans to shut down Alex Jones’s Infowars media platform and liquidate its assets to make payments on the $1.5 billion judgment against Jones for calling the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a hoax. (The announcement)

Today's topic.

The Ten Commandments law in Louisiana. Last week, Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry (R) signed a bill requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom in the state — from elementary school up to public colleges.

The bill, HB 71, requires the commandments "be displayed on a poster or framed document that is at least eleven inches by fourteen inches" and printed in "large, easily readable font." The display must include a Protestant translation of the Ten Commandments accompanied by a three-paragraph introductory statement asserting that the Ten Commandments were a primary part of American public education for almost three centuries. The posters will be provided through donations rather than state funds. In addition, the bill suggests that schools also display the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Northwest Ordinance.

On Monday, shortly after the bill's signing, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the state, saying the bill violates longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the First Amendment. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that a similar bill passed in Kentucky was unconstitutional for violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which says Congress can make no law respecting an establishment of religion and served a plainly religious purpose.

"The displays mandated by H.B. 71 will result in unconstitutional religious coercion of students, who are legally required to attend school and are thus a captive audience for school-sponsored religious messages," the ACLU said in a statement. "They will also send a chilling message to students and families who do not follow the state’s preferred version of the Ten Commandments that they do not belong, and are not welcome, in our public schools."

Proponents of the bill say the Ten Commandments have historical significance as founding ideals of the United States and other Western nations. In an interview with Fox News, Notre Dame Law School Professor Richard W. Garnett said the justices on this Supreme Court understand the distinction between church and state doesn't require the exclusion of expressions of faith from the public square, and suggested the law might hold up to scrutiny.

Gov. Landry expressed optimism that the new law will withstand legal challenges, telling reporters "I can’t wait to be sued." Former President Trump also endorsed the plan, saying he "loved" the Ten Commandments in public schools, private schools, and "many other places."

Today, we’re going to break down some arguments about the bill from the left and right, then my take. 

What the left is saying.

  • The left views the law as a blatant attempt to roll back religious liberties in the U.S.
  • Some say the Supreme Court must uphold precedent and reject the law if it reaches their docket. 
  • Others express concern over the law’s teaching of a specific Christian denomination.

In Salon, Amanda Marcotte said the law “invites the Supreme Court to impose more theocracy.”

“It would be easy to shrug this off… Making a stink about mandatory, taxpayer-funded displays of the 10 commandments has been a go-to political stunt for Republicans for decades,” Marcotte wrote. “But this is much more serious than that, and not just because, as the Sam Alito flag controversy shows, symbols do matter. This law builds on years of the Supreme Court chipping away at both religious freedom and the separation of church and state. It's an open invitation to the court to go even further, and strike down the very premise that the U.S. government should not be telling its citizens what gods to worship or what religious strictures control their lives.”

“Louisiana Republicans clearly hope to get this case in front of the Supreme Court, which has been on quite a tear recently, and offered tortured decisions justifying the use of government power and taxpayer funds to foist conservative Christian beliefs on the non-consenting,” Marcotte said. “In 2022, the court ignored decades of First Amendment precedent to rule that a high school football coach can bully his students into Christian prayer. In the same month, they also ruled — again violating decades of precedent — that the state of Maine has to pay for religious schools… It's the Christian right snaking its way into the most intimate parts of people's lives.”

In The New Republic, Matt Ford called the law “Supreme Court bait.”

“Most Americans might reasonably assume that such a law violates the establishment clause and a few Supreme Court precedents. They would be correct—and that is precisely the point,” Ford wrote. “Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable for the Supreme Court to sign off on such a bill. But anything seems possible these days with a 6–3 court, especially when it comes to religion and public education… Reintroducing sectarian religious materials into the schools—and demolishing the precedents that limit them—is a logical next step.”

“Students and teachers always have the right to pray and exercise their faith in their personal capacities in schools. What have been absent for more than a half-century are official efforts to pressure or coerce them into doing so. Courts long recognized that the government has no role in prescribing or proscribing any particular faith to children, a duty that is properly reserved to their parents. If the court abandons that principle, it could have dire consequences for American religious pluralism.”

In MSNBC, Nicholas Mitchell argued the law “is the first step in a sinister vision for the country.”

While determining whether the law violates the Establishment Clause “is a crucial question, my worry is more with the impact of this law on education and the broader cultural clash over civic morality,” Mitchell said. “Few areas of curriculum creation are more fraught than civic morality. Not only does it inevitably run into the constitutional issues laid out above, but everyone recognizes that teaching a moral code in a classroom, regardless of whether it is secularly or religiously grounded, can have a lasting impact on students through the ‘hidden curriculum’ that it will inevitably create.”

“HB 71's hidden curriculum raises concerns about its impact on the learning environment. Because the mandated list of commandments in HB 71 differs from the Jewish Ten Commandments, this may be viewed as the state endorsing Christianity over other religions,” Mitchell wrote. “Does this law amount to the state proselytizing Christianity to students? Some will point out that the country has largely moved past the Christian denominational clashes that were once common in American life. But while this may be true, it has no bearing on whether a Christian student feels that this specific listing amounts to the state evangelizing a particular Christian denomination to them.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right is generally supportive of the law, arguing that it comports with schools’ purpose to provide a moral education. 
  • Some say putting the Ten Commandments in classrooms is a first step to improving schools but not a final one. 
  • Others say Republicans need to focus on laws that will actually benefit students.  

In The Washington Examiner, Jeremiah Poff said the law “rightly blends education and morality.”

The response to the law “was predictable howling that the legislation violated the separation of church and state. The American Civil Liberties Union announced it would file a lawsuit against the new law and condemned it as ‘religious coercion,’” Poff wrote. “At its core, education is about the formation of character through intellectual inquiry. Information is useless without a framework through which it is applied. And to deny the role that the Ten Commandments have played in forming the moral framework of society is to be ignorant of history and civics.”

“At a time when a growing number of people are rejecting the basic moral truths that stealing is wrong, marital infidelity is wrong, and sometimes even that killing is wrong, the moral guidance of the Ten Commandments is needed more than ever,” Poff said. “If the ACLU has a problem with the Ten Commandments, it should sue to invalidate the long list of laws in force today that derive their moral foundation from the commands that God gave Moses at the top of Mt. Sinai, because clearly, any law informed by the Ten Commandments must violate the separation of church and state.”

In The Federalist, John Daniel Davidson wrote “the Ten Commandments should be taught in classrooms, not just hung on the wall.”

“The idea that posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms will do anything to inculcate in students a respect for the rule of law, to say nothing of basic morality, is pure fantasy. You might say it’s necessary but not anywhere close to sufficient,” Davidson said. “You’re going to have to get to the root cause of why these things are not taught in public schools anymore — in fact the opposite is taught, that objective morality is oppressive and that the rule of law is systematically racist. That means you’re going to have to do something about the teachers and administrators.”

“If you really want students to learn about the importance of the Ten Commandments — to say nothing of Christianity, Western philosophy, or the American founding — then you’d better be ready to take on the teachers unions and dismantle the teachers colleges and credentialing programs,” Davidson wrote. “Even if the Ten Commandments are allowed to remain on the walls of Louisiana classrooms, students aren’t going to learn anything about them unless they’re taught by teachers who themselves understand the importance of the Ten Commandments.”

In his newsletter, Erick Erickson suggested Republicans are deploying “shiny objects to distract from failures.” 

“I support the Ten Commandments being on the wall of the classrooms. The state, contrary to the silly claims of some, is not forcing teachers to put up Pride flags in classrooms. They are doing it on their own volition. Christian teachers should respond by putting up the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, or useful proverbs as posters,” Erickson said. “But, in this case and with this law, only the lawyers will win… the rest of you are distracted by this shiny object you all think is a great idea so you spend your time arguing over it and defending it and ignore exactly what Louisiana’s legislature wants you to ignore.

“Why did Louisiana’s legislature advance this legislation? They wanted to distract you from them gutting a school choice bill that would have allowed kids from public schools to go to religious schools where they’ll get actual religious education, not just a poster on the wall,” Erickson said. “So, the lawyers will get rich in the courts and get taxpayer dollars to defend an unconstitutional law. The lawyers will win against tort reform. And the students, parents, and taxpayers will get no relief. They won’t even get the poster, ultimately… We keep losing because our supposedly strategic thinkers make more from defeat because, after all, they fight! They’d rather own the libs than own the future.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • I’m a religious Jew who finds value in the Ten Commandments, and I couldn’t disagree more with this bill.
  • It’s a divisive, ineffective, and religiously degrading way of trying to get a lesson across that does more to score cheap political points than help Louisiana students.
  • Perhaps Governor Landry is trying to distract from other education issues in his state, but his energy is better spent trying to solve those problems.

So many things about this law are counterproductive or silly that it’s hard to know where to start. So let me begin by saying the nicest thing I can about it: I'm a Jew. I believe in God. I believe the Ten Commandments contain helpful lessons and are worth studying. I believe they are a part of American history, at least in the sense that they informed some of the moral philosophies of the drafters of the Constitution. And I believe a few of them — such as (to paraphrase) “don’t steal” and “don’t lie” — are good lessons to teach elementary school kids.

And now I am basically out of nice things to say.

For starters, the usefulness of this stunt is self-evidently non-existent. Landry has defended the bill by claiming the Ten Commandments are an important piece of American history and our founding — yet the bill makes displaying things like the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance optional, which kind of gives the game away. This law isn't about teaching history (and Christianity’s role in the founding fathers’ lives was complex); it's about faith. And it's the state very clearly favoring one faith, and even one version of that faith (by sponsoring the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments), with the full force of the government behind it — a clear violation of foundational principles in our Constitution.

It's also just counterproductive. For one, teachers can already post the Ten Commandments in classrooms if they'd like. We've seen controversy after controversy for teachers putting up Pride flags or certain “political” symbols in schools — and guess what? It's all allowed. So if you're a teacher who thinks that your students would benefit from having the Ten Commandments up in your classroom, you can actually go post them right now, and there's nothing illegal or unconstitutional about that.

What isn't allowed is the state government forcing teachers in Louisiana to post the Ten Commandments in their classrooms. Presumably, the state is home to teachers of a wide variety of faiths — Jewish teachers, Muslim teachers, Hindu teachers, etc. whose faiths offer a different version of the Ten Commandments from the one the state has chosen or don't include them at all. How is this law going to make them feel toward Christianity, or towards Protestants, or the Ten Commandments? Do legislators of faith in Louisiana think this is a genuinely helpful way to promote religion and their faith, as opposed to an antagonizing act that will draw more scrutiny and criticism? The answer seems obvious to me.

And that's to say nothing of the students. I went to the same public school for 12 years. If that public school had been in Louisiana, that would mean that in every single classroom for all 12 years of my primary education, I'd be greeted by the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments. As a religious minority, having something so ubiquitous in my classrooms would send a very clear message to me that I was different, that this was the endorsed version of faith, and that my teachers and classmates who subscribed to it were somehow closer to the "truth" than I was. This is plainly wrong. And, once again, also antithetical to the separation of church and state as spelled out by legal precedent interpreting the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

Also, can we have a real conversation about how useful the Ten Commandment lessons are to K-12 students? Because I think most of them won’t be.

  1. You shall have no other gods but me. See all my points above about religious minorities in the classroom.
  2. You shall not make unto you any graven images. The kind of commandment that needs some instruction to offer any kind of value, which of course isn’t permitted in public schools.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. I suppose this one could be interpreted to mean don’t cuss in school.
  4. You shall remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. I don't think you'd have a hard time selling kids on the weekend, but it's interesting that Louisiana legislators aren't making a push to close businesses for the Sabbath, which is a genuine way to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your mother and father. A very good lesson kids should learn!
  6. You shall not murder. A very good lesson I think kids learn already! 
  7. You shall not commit adultery. A very good lesson for a lot of politicians who say they support this bill.
  8. You shall not steal. A great lesson for kids!
  9. You shall not bear false witness. Maybe the best lesson for kids, who notoriously bear false witness against each other on a regular basis. 
  10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. A commandment that has a lot more depth than you think but can get a little bizarre when you start explaining to kids that this is mostly about their neighbor's wife.

And that's it. Those are the Protestant Ten Commandments.

I've seen a lot of writers (including a few above) frame this as Supreme Court bait. I presume, like them, that given how conservative the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is (which we talked a bit about yesterday), this law might one day get there. But if it does, my best guess is that this Supreme Court would strike the law down in nearly unanimous fashion on the same grounds it has struck down nearly identical laws in the past. At the same time, Gov. Landry seems to be relishing the idea of getting sued — perhaps (correctly) hoping this brouhaha boosts his political profile and overshadows Louisiana's failing public schools, which are ranked among the worst in the country (worth noting: Roughly half of Louisiana’s third graders would struggle to even read the posters). Or perhaps, as Eric Erickson said (under “What the right is saying”), Landry is hoping to distract Louisianans from the legislature gutting a popular school choice bill that would have allowed public school students to attend religious schools where they could have received a genuine religious instruction.

Worst of all, to me, is this: The bill degrades religion. It doesn't honor it, it cheapens it. It drags faith into the arena to be fought over with all the other partisan issues. It signals to Americans that faith is something you can force people to plaster on the walls of schools — that it's something that can be captured in 10 rules. It allows hypocrites and charlatans to claim the mantle of faith by shrieking about how much they love this law even as they spend most of their lives living in clear violation of the principles the Ten Commandments espouses.

So, what are we left with? We're left with legislators overseeing failing schools who are spending their time on controversial, divisive, and ineffective bills that will eventually get struck down by the courts, all while cheapening faith and angering the opposition. And ultimately legislators are improving nothing about the circumstances of Louisiana’s grade school children, whom all of this is supposed to be about in the first place. 

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Your questions, answered.

Q: At some point our voting ballots have become an "Official Republican Party Ballot" and an "Official Democratic Party Ballot" — I am not registered with either party so I receive both, but instructions are to use only one ballot and destroy the other. This means I choose a party to vote for not the best candidate. When did this change? Why am I limited to voting for just one party? Maybe this is just a Colorado thing?

— Lori from Denver, Colorado

Tangle: I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you’re receiving ballots for Colorado’s Republican and Democrat state-level and local primary elections, which are due at 7:00PM MT today, June 25. I can see how this would look nefarious, but it’s just a feature of Colorado’s primary system. Colorado already held its presidential primaries earlier this year, but today voters will be choosing their parties’ candidates for U.S. House, Colorado state House and Senate, University of Colorado regent, Denver District Attorney, and other local races.

While a few have their local and state primaries on the same date, most U.S. territories and states have their state-level primaries after the presidential primaries (with some having no primaries at all).

As a quick refresher, party candidates have to be nominated by their parties in primary elections first before being put forward to the general election in November. Colorado has a semi-open (or semi-closed) primary system, meaning that independent voters get to vote in any primary of their choosing, but only one. So a Democrat would have received a Democratic ballot and a Republican a Republican ballot, while you as an unaffiliated voter got both ballots and were instructed to vote in one primary and destroy the other. 

Rest assured that if you don’t turn in either of those ballots, you’ll still be able to vote in the general election in November. And if you turn in a ballot for one party, you’ll still be able to vote for anyone of your choosing in the general election.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

Border officials are reporting that the number of encounters with migrants between ports of entry has fallen by 25% since President Biden announced an asylum crackdown. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released the data with a warning that migrant flows are dynamic and could change quickly. “Our enforcement efforts are continuing to reduce southwest border encounters. But the fact remains that our immigration system is not resourced for what we are seeing,” said Troy Miller, the acting commissioner of CBP. Temporary dips in migration are not uncommon after major border policy announcements, but a prolonged decrease would be a major political victory for Biden, who is hoping to ease concerns among voters about an overwhelmed border. The Hill has the story.


  • 5-4. The Supreme Court’s vote in Stone v. Graham in 1980, which found it unconstitutional to require the Ten Commandments be posted in public school classrooms. 
  • 75%. The approximate percentage of adults in Louisiana who are Christian, according to a 2020 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. 
  • 53%. The percentage of adults in Louisiana who are Protestants. 
  • 22%. The percentage of adults in Louisiana who are Catholics. 
  • 90%. The percentage of adults in Louisiana who say religion is important in their life, according to a 2014 Pew Survey.
  • 43%. The percentage of adults in Louisiana who say they primarily look to religion for guidance on right and wrong.
  • 74%. The percentage of Americans who said they favored allowing public schools to display the Ten Commandments in a 1999 Gallup poll. 
  • 67%. The percentage of U.S. teenagers who said they see some form of religious expression in their public school on a regular basis in a 2019 Pew survey.

The extras.

  • One year ago today we covered the military mutiny in Russia.
  • The most clicked link in yesterday’s newsletter was the mass shooting at an Arkansas grocery store.
  • Nothing to do with politics: The Kansas City Chiefs’ new Super Bowl rings contain a typo.
  • Yesterday’s survey: 726 readers answered our survey asking about the Supreme Court ruling that an individual subject to a protective order could be prohibited from possessing guns with 90% supporting both the decision and the outcome. “It’s unfortunate, but an obvious caution against allowing for further violence is to restrict firearm access, if only temporarily, as with jailing during the wait for a court hearing,” one respondent said.

Have a nice day.

A preliminary study between researchers at the University of Oxford and a California biotech company has developed a new technology: a dye that can illuminate prostate cancer cells. Cutting out malignant cells is crucial to curing prostate cancer in early stages, but catching cells that have spread outside the main tumors can be extremely difficult. The dye works by binding to a protein in the cancerous cells, allowing surgeons to more easily spot them. “We are giving the surgeon a second pair of eyes to see where the cancer cells are and if they have spread,” lead author Freddie Hamdy said in a press release. “It’s the first time we’ve managed to see such fine details of prostate cancer in real-time during surgery.” Nice News has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.