Ohio school board votes to keep Jesus portrait up

An Ohio school district decided Tuesday night to keep a portrait of Jesus hanging in the school where it's been 65 years, denying a federal lawsuit's claim the portrait's display unconstitutionally promotes religion in a public school.
Associated Press
Feb 13, 2013

The Jackson City Schools board offered a constitutional justification of its own in voting 4-0 to keep the portrait up in its middle school, saying it must protect students' free speech rights. The vote drew cheers and applause from the dozens of people gathered in the elementary school gymnasium.

After huddling with attorneys in closed session for more than an hour, the school board said the portrait belongs to the student group that put it up, the Hi-Y club. The portrait's frame is inscribed with the club's name and the Christian-based service group is the portrait's owner, not the school, the board said.

The board said the portrait is part of a "limited public forum," and that the Jackson schools will allow other student clubs to hang portraits appropriate to their organizations.

"We're in a predicament where we have to balance things," said Superintendent Phil Howard said after the meeting. "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."

An ACLU spokesman said it will want to see details of the board's position, but remains convinced the portrait is unconstitutional.

"Our position on this is clear: we believe the portrait is unconstitutional sponsorship of religion and should be removed," spokesman Nick Worner said.

The ACLU and another group filed suit last week in U.S. district court on behalf on an unidentified student and two parents in the school district.

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, a Plano, Texas-based nonprofit that advocates on behalf of public religious displays, and attorney David Shaw of Washington-based Covington & Burling researched the issue and advised the board. Shaw, whose firm is donating its services, said he couldn't guess how the plaintiffs would respond, but said the lawyers had earlier asked their attorneys to meet to discuss the case before the lawsuit was filed.

The portrait had generally been said to have been donated by the student group in 1947, but the school board Tuesday night disavowed ownership and said the Hi-Y club had asserted that it owns the portrait.

It hangs in a hallway, above a side entranceway that leads to the middle school auditorium of the school in Jackson City, a small town about 65 miles south of Columbus nestled in a mostly rural area in the state's Appalachian region. The building was the Jackson High School at the time the portrait was hung.

The challenge to the Jesus portrait began with a Jan. 2 letter to Howard from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which said it had received "a disturbing report" about the portrait, along with a photo showing it hanging in the school.

At a subsequent school meeting that drew hundreds of people in support of the portrait, Howard defended it as having historical significance, said it was donated by a student group, and added that it hadn't drawn previous complaints.

"I've been here for six years and nobody ever said anything about it," Howard told The Associated Press before Tuesday's meeting. "I think probably the vast majority of the people in the community want it to stay."

The plaintiffs are referred to only by "Sam Doe" in the lawsuit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. A U.S. magistrate in Columbus ruled that the plaintiffs' names could remain publicly anonymous, while being filed under seal and provided to defendants' attorneys.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said in a court filing that their clients would face harassment and intimidation, citing threatening social media comments saying those disagreeing with the portrait should leave Jackson and go to another school.

The lawsuit against the Jackson schools contends that "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."

It's the latest legal clash over religious displays in public places. A school district in nearby Adams County battled for years for a Ten Commandments display that courts ruled to be overly religious. However, federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court have approved some displays if their main purpose was non-religious.

"The basic rule is that the government is not allowed to endorse religion," said Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. "So there would be two questions here: Is the portrait an endorsement of religion — rather than, say, a recognition of some historical fact — and if so, is it attributable to the government — the school — rather than the students?"

 

Comments

arnmcrmn

Oh here comes the coward to throw out jabs.....mother jokes on a forum? what are you like 10? My 6 yr old could come up with a better one than that. Ive got a box of tampons for you if you wanna keep posting like a little girl.

thinkagain

Grow up

44846GWP

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

goofus

The left is really afraid of Jesus and any other religion except Muslim, Obozo embraces it with his dealings with the Islamic Brotherhood and fighter jets.

44846GWP

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks that discriminate based on age, race, religion, disability, etc. and Libel and defamation.

danbury dad

it is funny how many people really believe we are not a christian nation. but when there is any sort of crisis how quickly they return the church for answers. if it were not for the larger liberal cities this topic would not even be discussed. yes most of america is christian. get over it

John Harville

DDad. Are you serious? Do you really believe when someone asks us to 'pray for America' they mean 'pray to Jesus"?

In GOD we trust. With GOD all things are possible. "...under GOD,...". "GOD bless America"... "GOD of our Fathers" ...

...are endowed by their CREATOR...

Where is JESUS in all that?

meowmix

Goofus, danbury dad...sorry, not muslim nor am I afraid of Jesus. I was born and raised a Lutheran, saturday morning catechism and all for two years. Your intolerance of we non-believers just goes to show how shallow you are. America is not a christian nation..we are a nation that believes that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, go read your bibull and smoke your sanctimonious pipe.

anthras

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

John Harville

soooo. Only MEN are created equal.

meowmix

Oh, and Danbury Dad, the last time I yelled "O, God" was not because of a crisis. It was valentine's day and I have a really nice husband who saw fit to show his love.

Pterocarya frax...

If hubby was that great, it would have been several times since Valentines! Just sayin ;)

John Harville

We who inspire "Oh God!" know that quality is preferable to quantity...

Kimo

.
The far-right believes in "majority" until the "majority" voted for Obama.
.

John Harville

Kimo0... ?????????????????????

John Harville

"...we can't infringe upono the rights of our students and student groups..." the superintendent is quoted.
Wonder if THAT will come back to haunt them when they bring in drug-sniffing dogs or institute random pizz checks or search cars?
Or will we see another example of selective protection of Constitutional rights?

4shizzle

@ John Harville

Since you have run through these posts like a bipolar monkey with a switchblade---What is the name of your spiritual belief system?

4shizzle

.

John Harville

Mark Twain once said, "I never allowed school to get in the way of my education."

Harville's paraphrase: "I never allow religion to get in the way of my faith."

Most of what I've read here is 'religion', with very little foundation in the individual's faith.

I never had to 'become' a Christian. I grew up in the presence of Jesus. Religion said I had to respond to an altar call making a public "acceptance" of Jesus before the believers in church or revival meeting; be baptized (the EUBs believed in "sprinkling" while the Baptists believed only immersion was acceptable - so I nearly drowned in a lake being "aceptable"; I have every major and minor religion in my background - and EVERY one of them has used the Bible as a weapon with which to beat people into submission.
Being an historian, I enjoy the Bible - and other 'holy' tomes - as a source of tracing religious evolution (uh oh! there's that word!).
The Torah/Pentetuch/Qu'ran are verbal history someone at some point decided to put in writing - centuries after the legends/stories began being passed down.
Studying Judeaeo-Christian religion reveals today's beliefs are based on a history of cheating, murder, war. Examples: Abraham is the 'father of us all' - who bore a bastard firstborn son with his wife's maid then through a miraculous conception bore a 'legitimate' son with his wife and sent the bastard and his mother to die in the desert. The second son Isaac married a woman who had twins and helped the younger one steal the birthright of his older brother Jacob;

John Harville

to continue: Are you following? Abraham; Ishmael/Isaac; Esau/Jacob; Jacob - whom God renamed, wait for it, Israel - wanted Rachael but was forced to marry her sister Leah and had 11 children (10 sons and a daughter) with Leah and her servants then finally got to marry Rachel (while still married to Leah - uh oh, adultery) and had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Benjamin is the one who becomes the ancestor of David via Ruth (a foreigner) and Mary and Jesus.
So let's see: adultery, attempted murder, denial of birthright (that's why the Arab descendants of Ishmael are so angry), theft of birthright, adultery, fornication, subterfuge, alien intermarriage, alias (Jacob aka Israel) - all long before we get to Moses.
Thus our Judeao/Christian religion (not faith) is all based on an oral tradition that says of all the men working the Earth at the time, God chose to speak to Abram aka Abraham. Only Abram could hear the voice of God and through a bit of good PR turned to his favor got folks to believe him.
The ONLY possible reason we have to believe this message is because it pops up in other 'religions'.
Then there's the whole burning bush thing wherein 'God' says "tell them I AM sent you"... remembering the Israelites were not allowed to speak Yahweh's name.
Along comes God in the 'flesh' to walk among the Creation and find a reason not to once again destroy us forever. Jesus gives a name to the Creator -- 'Father' -- and tells us "who has seen me has seen the Father" and gives a prayer as told in Matthew.

John Harville

4shizzle if this getting too long, you asked...

Paul told the Followers of The Way (nobody called the followers of the Jewish Messiah 'Christians') that Jesus would return 'before this generation has passed away'... Then Peter and most of the others started being executed and some got the idea they'd better record this story or it would be lost. Despite the order of the Old Testament, Mark began the Gospels by setting out to prove Jesus was the embodiement of OT prophecies. Matthew came next to establish the right of Jesus' claim to be descended from David and to relate his parables and give us 'The Lord's Prayer'; Luke came next with the intent of clarifying what those who knew Jesus (Luke never met the man) had written - and to give us the miraculous birth story to establish his 'Miraculousness' and to give us another version of 'The Lord's Prayer' clarifying it is a contract. Sixty years later as an old man imprisoned, John established the Trinity.
The 'early church' required non-Jews to become Jews (complete with circumcision of ALL males) before they could become 'Followers'. Then Paul (both Roman and Jew) got knocked off his horse, heard Jesus, and told Peter and James that Jesus wanted the 'church' extended to non-Jews without all the 'clipping'...thus the rest of The New Testament letters and Luke's "Acts of the Apostles".

John Harville

My Faith is in the Triune God who is among us and within us.
Jesus gave ONE commandment "...that you love one another as I have loved you." Know what? Iffen ya follow that one ALL the others fall into place.
Faith is the Triune God's law.
Religion is human law attempting to make our actions 'fit' Jesus' ONE law in such a way that we can justify what we do... and to have others justify what we do.
More inhumanity has been perpetrated 'in the name of God' than for any other reason.
Thus I adhere to no religion but have an immense faith.
And let us remember that the only time Jesus spoke in a building the people wanted to stone him.
Jesus taught in the open air, often to people no one else wanted to include. He welcomed everyone to find love and hope and inner peace.
Okay. You asked, I delivered.

4shizzle

Ok...You're not a Christian but a confused man.

4shizzle

You understand little.

John Harville

If you disbelieve, and there is a God, you will discover your error.
And have Eternity to contemplate your error - and maybe learn if there is a Hell.
If you believe, and there is no God, you'll never know.
Will you?

4shizzle

What is the name of your spiritual belief system?
OR
What were you raised in?

John Harville

Answered.
The Triune God.

4shizzle

"If you disbelieve, and there is a God, you will discover your error.
And have Eternity to contemplate your error - and maybe learn if there is a Hell"

You won't be "contemplating "(sounds so peaceful and stoic); you'll be moaning and nashing your teeth in torment knowing that you sent yourself to hell and that you will NEVER,NEVER,NEVER get out.

John Harville

In what med-induced stupor get the story of Hell? Jesus never spoke of it, did he? I think the fiery pit is in The Revelation.
And Jews don't believe in Hell.
That's a 'Church/Religion' rule, designed to keep the people in line and following the rules.

4shizzle

No Hell ?
That's why Jesus came.

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