- (Photo: WBNS-10TV Video)
The American Civil Liberties Union and an Ohio school district have reached a tentative agreement on the fate of a portrait of Jesus Christ that hung in a local public high school.
While neither the ACLU nor the Jackson City School District offered details about the agreement, what is known is that the handwritten agreement was created last week.
U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley issued an order Thursday giving the two sides 90 days to reach a settlement on the ACLU lawsuit.
In early January, the Jackson District received a letter from the Madison, Wis.-based group Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding a portrait of Jesus that hung in the local high school.
Part of a "Hall of Honor" display meant to commemorate notable historical figures, the portrait had been at the high school since 1947, when a chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association donated it.
Jackson Superintendent Phil Howard explained to local media that he was opposed to removing the Jesus portrait.
"We're not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn't hurt anyone," said Howard to WKKJ.
"I'm certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wis. who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down."
In February, the Ohio chapter of the ACLU and FFRF filed suit against the school district over the portrait, demanding that it be removed.
ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman said in a statement that legal action needed to be taken against the school district.
"The school system was warned weeks ago that this religious display is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, and must be removed," said Hardiman. "The government has no place interfering in these matters by promoting one specific set of beliefs in a school that children are legally required to attend."
As the lawsuit was processed, the school district was ordered to remove the portrait while the case was being decided. While officially the portrait was taken down in April, according to court records the painting remained on school grounds, occasionally being displayed, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Jackson City School District did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time, presumably due to the pending settlement.