The Jesus Christ portrait at Jackson Middle School was removed from the school wall. The photo at the center of a lawsuit initiated by an atheist group is not gone from view; it was merely relocated to the high school. As the legal battle over the Jesus portrait rages on, the Hi-Y Club asserted ownership rights over the display.
During the 1970s, the student club presented the Jesus portrait to the Jackson school district. The high school club exercised its ownership rights and told school officials the portrait needed to be on display at the high school. The ongoing lawsuit pits the school district against the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Jesus portrait now hands in the fine arts hallway in the senior high building. A trophy case fills the wall next to the Hi-Y Club's gift to the rural Ohio school district. The club gained the power to decide placement for the portrait after a school board meeting last month.
The Jackson school district passed a new policy that created limited public forums at both the high and middle school buildings. District Superintendent Phil Howard stated during the board of education meeting that the Hi-Y Club acknowledged their ownership of the Jesus Christ portrait. Howard also stated that, since the club owns the portrait, they have the right to decide what should be done with the display.
Hi-Y Club Bob Eisnaugle told The Telegram, a local newspaper, that club members voted last week to move the Jesus Christ display to the high school. The decision was made primarily because the club is a high school organization.
Eisnaugle also said, "It has been at the middle school all these years, and probably should have been moved when we moved here as a club." The decision to relocate the portrait did not require a board of education vote since the entity is not the official owner of the display.
Comments from citizens posted on local social networking boards range from excited jubilation to outrage. Both strong supporters and opponents have made their voices heard about the display of the Jesus portrait at the southern Ohio school.
Liberty Institute attorneys are representing the Jackson school district pro bono. The Texas-based group maintains the Jesus portrait is private speech and protected by the Constitution.