Bill allowing schools to post Ten Commandments clears Senate
By Dylan Sherman
BISMARCK – The North Dakota Senate passed a bill that would allow local school boards to post the Ten Commandments and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Senate Bill 2308, introduced by Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, would allow schools to post a copy of the Ten Commandments in the classroom and allow schools to permit students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Fifteen years after we took prayer and the Ten Commandments out of schools, pregnancy rates of girls 10 to 14 rose 400%,” she said, citing her own research. “Pregnancy rates of girls 15 and older, out of wedlock, rose 148%, and divorces rose 300%.”
Myrdal said she brought the bill forward because she is tired of the government putting Band-Aids on all the scary things in society.
The bill passed 34-13 despite some vocal opposition, and Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said it would invite lawsuits against school districts.
“If we were doing floor amendments on [this bill], I would certainly recommend that after the words authorize school districts to do this and post in classrooms ‘if you dare,’” he said. “You will be sued, no matter what [the bill] says about immunity, you will be in federal court and you will lose.”
Holmberg added that when he taught in 1980, when the Ten Commandments were removed from schools and other public places, “those eighth graders were just as squirrely as they were before [the commandments] were removed.”
Although he voted for the bill, Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, informed the Senate that the state can immunize school districts from state law claims, but not from federal claims.
“In terms of claims that arise from the violation of the U.S. Constitution, we cannot do that,” he said. “When there is a conflict between a state statute and the federal constitution, the federal constitution prevails.”
Myrdal disputed claims that the state or school districts would be liable for suits resulting in the bill. In addition, she said the cost of defending the placement of the Ten Commandments in schools “would be a lot less” than the social cost of not making such efforts.