(Photo: Flickr / Waiting for the Word)
An Ohio lawyer is organizing an effort to erect a statue of Jesus near a local high school, after an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit threat led the school board to decide earlier this month to remove a picture of Christ inside the building.
The painting, which commemorated the life of a teacher who died at the school, hung in the school office and was not visible from the front counter, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Entitled "The Lord Is My Shepherd," the picture had been displayed since 1971 before Allison Whaley, a senior, argued that it was unfair that the painting hung, even while the administration had recently taken down two student art projects, whose messages, "Gay Is Okay," and "Right to Life," they blamed as "disruptive."
"If we're teaching discrimination in the schools, those students grow into our future adults, and New Concord will never change," Whaley said. "Displaying a 'Gay is Okay' T-shirt alone won't do that. Removing a picture of Jesus won't do it. But I think if I start to stand up, other people will, as well."
In response to a school board decision to remove the painting partially influenced by lawsuit costs, lawyer Jeanette Moll recently commissioned a sculptor to create a work similar to the image on the painting.
While Moll, who currently has two children in the East Muskingum district and two others who are alumna of the high school, said that while she was "not leading this effort as a protest," she hoped to place the statue near the school, potentially on a nearby homeowner's residence or church.
"I'm leading this effort as a positive memorial to the faith of the community," Moll told The Columbus Dispatch, who admitted that she had already initiated conversations with both church officials and the homeowner.
Moll is currently in the process of fundraising $30,000 for the statue, which she would like to install by spring of 2014.
"We have the focus of the community right now," she said. "Given the story behind the image and the time of the year, I'm confident we will get support."
Her effort is just one of the numerous reactions from the local community to the takedown of the Jesus painting. A "JGHS Keep The Good Shepherd" Facebook group boasts nearly 1,500 members and another company has started selling T-shirts with the school's mascot holding a cross. Nearly 1,100 shirts have been sold and proceeds have been donated to an anti-poverty organization.
Moll hopes that these efforts go beyond what was originally a quiet memorial for an appreciated teacher.
"What greater legacy can you leave for your kids than the lasting legacy of Christ in our community?" she said.