ACLU seeks removal of Ohio school's Jesus portrait

A portrait of Jesus that hangs prominently in an entranceway at a rural Ohio public school is in violation of the U.S. Constitution and should be removed, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday says.
Associated Press
Feb 8, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation say the large portrait at Jackson Middle School unconstitutionally promotes religion. The two groups seek a court order requiring the school to remove the portrait and prohibiting its re-hanging or any substantially similar display in the future.

"The maintenance and display of the portrait has the effect of advancing and endorsing one religion, improperly entangling the State in religious affairs, and violating the personal consciences of plaintiffs," the lawsuit says.

The suit follows complaints by both groups to school officials, and was filed on behalf of three plaintiffs, identified only as "Sam Doe." One is a student at Jackson Middle School; the other two are parents with children who attend the school.

School Superintendent Phil Howard, named as a defendant along with Jackson City School District and the school board, was out of town for a meeting Thursday but said through a spokeswoman that he was surprised the lawsuit was filed before the district completed its investigation of the issue. He said the board will discuss "an appropriate course of action" at its Feb. 12 meeting.

The Columbus Dispatch previously reported that Howard said at a school board meeting last month: "We're not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn't hurt anyone."

School officials have said the portrait was donated by a student group and has been in the school since about 1947.

But ACLU spokesman Nick Worner said that while defenders of the portrait cite tradition, that doesn't change its interference with constitutional rights.

"Separation of church and state is one of the nation's oldest traditions," Worner said.

The Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, representing the school district, earlier wrote to the ACLU and Freedom From Religion, saying the institute was investigating the issue. The institute said the portrait has been in place for some 65 years, apparently without anyone complaining about it.

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute, said Thursday the lawsuit was premature. He said Liberty Institute planned to present its findings and recommendations to the school board at next week's meeting. He declined to discuss the findings, but said the goal was to make sure the legal rights of all involved were considered.

"It's obviously a delicate balance," he said.

The district is some 65 miles south of Columbus.



The Bizness

"The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." and Article VI specifies that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." - Wikipedia

This is obvious favoritism to a specific religion and should not be in a public school.

John Harville

bIZ... "CONGRESS" being the definitive word in this discussion.


Closer to home: Always wondered why a copy of the 10 Commandments are in front of the Norwalk City Hall.

Are the atheists fallin' down on the job?

And what the (bleep) are all those "God" references on our currency and federal buildings?

John Harville

"God" references. Not "In Jesus We Trust". Not "With Jesus All Things Are Possible". Not "one nation under Jesus"...
the Ten Commandments are from God via Moses...the other 656 in the Penateuch are from Moses - you know, the ones about killing a non-virgin wife, and prohibiting tattoos and piercings and - my favorite - the limits on how much money a father can charge for his daughter.


I've wondered why noone has said anything b4 now about city hall. I practice a different religion and I do not agree that it should be there.

John Harville

The Ten Commandments are from God, Allah, Jhwh - at least that's what Moses told the Israelites (and ONLY the Israelites). But why didn't they post the other 646?

BW1's picture

Well, for starters, because there are over 600, not 256.

John Harville

BW1.. You are absolutely RIGHT. 656.(I corected my incorrect post) But they ALL are Mosaic and thereby Judaeic/Muslim (You DO know Islam traces its beginning to Abraham too?)

BW1's picture

You should probably just stop before you dig any deeper. The number is 613 and the Mosaic covenant is not acknowledged by Islam. Commonality ends at Abraham's sons, many generations before Moses.

John Harville

I will yield. Obviously you know more than the Evangelical Baptist preacher who taught us.

Islamic law - according to the Imam under whom I studied - adopts the laws of the Torah which comes from Abraham and was illuminated by Moses who - along with Jesus - is given space in the Qu'ran.

So perhaps the picture of a white Jesus should be replaced by picture of Abraham?


aww does it hurt your feelings?


The Bizness - what, pray tell, specific religion is the portrait favoring? I can see where displaying a portait of Jesus in a school or posting the 10 Commandments in a public place, as questioned by Contango, could lead to the ultimate downfall of civilization as we know it, but I fail to see how the existence of either favors ANY SPECIFIC religion. Fortunately for the rest of us, though, we have you and the ACLU here to tell us how to think and superimpose your will on us.

The Bizness

I really don't care if it is there or not

But that picture does favor Christianity


And your point would be?

John Harville

This was NOT founded as a Christian nation. Thus, In GOD we trust - not Jesus.

John Harville

Paws. Really?
Jesus CHRIST. CHRISTianity.
Ten Commandments. Mosaic/Judaic laws. JUDAISM and ISLAM (Abraham laid down many of the laws - except that adultery thing of course. And Islam and other Arabic religions ALSO trace their beginnings to Abraham.
Instead, we have you and Contango to tell us how to think and to attempt to superimpose your wills on us.

Kottage Kat

Well. ???????


Most scholars believe that a more accurate translation is: Thou shall not murder.

The Judeo-Christian God often advocated the killing of Hebrew enemies.

John Harville

Well. Something we agree on. Scary, huh?
EXCEPT: It was the Judaeo/Mosaic God. Christianity had nothing to do with it - unless you are openly accepting the Triune God in the Gospel of John that "and the Word was God."

Floyd P

I can be as liberal as they come but sometimes the ACLU gets a little carried away. A simple solution would be a compromise. Since the superintendent believes Jesus is of historical importance, why not place a picture of the Buddha on one side and a picture of the Star of David on the other? Then add on from there - a pentacle for Wiccans, a yin-yang for Eastern philosophy, a crescent moon for Islam and the Om symbol for Hinduism. Now you've covered the major religions and it would give children a chance to open their worlds and explore other traditions so they can decide a belief system for themselves and just maybe they would grow up to be more tolerant of each other.
Oh, and add a blank canvas for the atheists.

John Harville

@Floyd...You beat me to it.


You forgot the $ sign

John Harville

jon491... GOOD! And the Bomb.


They may want to also consider puting up "666" in all fairness.


there are so many more IMPORTANT things that we should be worrying about!!!

it is interesting that the aclu does this yet it is ok for the gov't to give vouchers for kids to go to.......wait for schools (which, btw, i have no problem). mixing gov't and religion there!

John Harville

@Mikel. actually the Governor is giving public money to private for-profit schools as well. But now Christians are getting upset about vouchers for Catholic/religious schools because of a huge upsurge of Muslim/Islamic schools in the state - whose students also qualify for vouchers.
And for years public schools have been required to provide transportation for private school students as well as being administrator for state funds to private schools for speech therapy, reading therapy, etc. which religious schools can't afford to offer.
The Ten Commandments are Jewish - no Jesus present on the Mount or in the burning bush.
More important issues? Hmmm. So many of those issues eventually get around to religion - gay marriage, choice, personhood - religion.


john, quite the contrary person eh?

i do realize that vouchers go to many different schools not just catholic. i was just trying to get to the gov't-religion thing.

As far as my comment about more important things. the argument here is directly regarding a picture. we are worrying about whether or not a picture should be hanging in a school.

and yes, there is more important things to worry about than a picture.

John Harville

Mikel... those 'more important things' include drones, economy and 'entitlements', 'marriage', 'choice' etc. And in EVERY one of those you will find a religious argument... because ALL those issues at the base are about human beings and individual citizens.
The picture of Jesus in a public school is an iconic subliminal message which children see everyday. It's been there how long with its subtle message of Christian morality?


They also all tie back to obumbles and I don't like his picture so maybe I will call them and have them take down his pic.

John Harville

Mikel. Maybe we can replace it with a picture of you since you obviously know all about all and judge all ...