A Mississippi lawmaker wants schoolchildren to recite the Ten Commandments every day

A former colleague who used to cover the Mississippi Legislature counseled against writing about bills until they had demonstrated some possibility of passage.

I appreciated his reasoning, since he didn’t want to waste his time on legislation that stood no chance of becoming law.

But I’ve never quite bought it. I think it’s important not just to know what legislators get done, but what they’d like to get done. You never can tell when someone is going to slip in something wacky, like requiring schoolchildren to recite the Ten Commandments every day.

Which is an actual 2018 House bill. By a Democrat.

I don’t mean to suggest that either party has a monopoly on half-baked ideas. But you can often tell a bill sponsor’s party by the subject matter. Raise the minimum wage, apologize for slavery: Democrat. Make the Bible the official state book, outlaw or limit abortion: Republican.

So every year about this time I pore over the House and Senate introductions. It’s a pretty tedious exercise, wading through the assorted bond issuances, sales tax exemptions and sundry commendations for people living and dead. But without fail it also produces some head-shakes, along with the occasional nod.

And so, with occasional comment, here’s a sampling of this year’s findings, which included one or more bills that would:

Ban conjugal visits for prison inmates, or allow them.

Fine schools that don’t require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily.

Require anyone finding a dead body, or part thereof, to report it. (We don’t already have a law for this?)

Designate “Mississippi Beautiful” as a state song“Meet My Mississippi” as the state poem, or blue as the official state color.

Allow retired judges to solemnize marriages and obtain a free pistol license. (I hope these two, in the same bill, are not somehow related.)

Prohibit telephone calls supporting or opposing political candidates running for office. (Can I get an amen?)

Create a Mississippi Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination, including for sexual orientation or gender identity. (Fat chance.)

Celebrate a Civil Rights Memorial Day on the same day set aside for Confederate Memorial Day.

Provide raises for teachers, state employees, and just about anybody else whose votes could be helpful come election time. (Keep an eye on who actually gets one.)

Separate the Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee holidays, now both rather incongruously commemorated on the same day.

Require year-round Daylight Saving Time.

Require teachers to assign homework.

Allow children to start school in the calendar year they turn 6. (As it was when I was a kid.)

Prohibit “alteration or renaming of historical monuments, memorials and streets.” (You can guess what prompted this.)

Reduce the size of the Legislature, and reduce the minimum number of school days. (Is Mississippi really in need of less education?)

Legalize medical or recreational marijuana. (I’d suggest that if you did the latter, you wouldn’t need to do the former.)

Allow the sale of wine at food stores. (Yes. Please.)

All this brings me to one of my favorites, which would establish a pilot program in schools to require students to read a minimum of four books a year. I suggest we take it a step further, and require it for adults.

And individual books of the Bible don’t count.


Native Mississippian Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times.
Joe Rogers
Native Mississippian Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times.


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