A portrait of Jesus will remain on the wall at an Ohio school despite a pending lawsuit. The school board contends that taking the portrait down would violate students’ freedom of speech.
The Jackson City School District is facing a lawsuit, filed by the ACLU together with the Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of three unidentified individuals. The organizations believe that the painting of Jesus, displayed in a public school, is a governmental endorsement of religion. They assert that the portrait’s placement is a violation of the constitution.
As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, the school attempted to defend the placement of the portrait as belonging to a student group. The “Hi-Y” club has claimed that the portrait of Jesus belongs to them and is not endorsed by the public school. School officials have chosen to keep the painting where it has remained for the last 65 years.
In a vote that occurred last night, the Jackson City Schools board voted 4-0 to keep the painting in place, despite the lawsuit. As reported by GoUpstate, Superintendent Phil Howard is in the middle of a difficult and controversial situation:
“We’re in a predicament where we have to balance things. We can’t make that kind of endorsement (of religion) as a government entity. But we also can’t infringe upon the rights of our student groups and our students.”
ACLU spokesman Nick Worner has reserved comment until he has had time to review the details of the school board’s decision. He does however state that his feelings about the placement of the portrait of Jesus have not changed:
“Our position on this is clear: We believe the portrait is unconstitutional sponsorship of religion and should be removed.”
School officials plan to continue displaying the painting of Jesus until when and if they must remove it as a result of the pending federal lawsuit.