According to The Columbus Dispatch, the Jackson Board of Education (JBOE) is considering whether to continue to defend the display of a portrait of Jesus or remove it in response to a lawsuit. The suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU-OH) and the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is asking a federal court to order the removal of the portrait from Jackson Middle School.
According to the ACLU-OH and FFRF, the painting is an illegal blessing of Christianity and crosses the line separating church and state. “The school system was warned weeks ago that this religious display is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed,” said James Hardiman, ACLU-OH’s legal director.
In January 2013, the JBOE decided not to remove the portrait. Superintendent Phil Howard said he was “shocked and surprised” by the lawsuit. The district has been working with lawyers from the Liberty Institute (LI), a nonprofit legal group that defends religious freedom, to investigate the legality of the painting. LI’s report is nearly complete and will be discussed by the JBOE shortly to determine “an appropriate course of action,” Howard said.
The ACLU-OH and FFRF contend that prior federal court decisions make it clear that the isolated picture of Jesus, which is displayed above a school exit, is improper and must be removed.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, 2/8/13, By Randy Ludlow
[Editor's Note: In January 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article from The Columbus Dispatch article, which reported that the ACLU-OH had recently joined with FFRF in seeking the removal of a painting of Jesus displayed in Jackson Middle School. Like FFRF, the ACLU-OH believes that the picture, which school officials vowed would stay, is an unconstitutional entanglement of church and state and an endorsement of Christianity.]