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Jesus Court Painting Survives ACLU Attack

A disputed portrait of Jesus Christ will remain at the Slidell city courthouse in Louisiana after a federal judge refused to grant a demand by the American Civil Liberties Union to have the painting removed.

"The court today recognized that the First Amendment allows public officials, and not the ACLU, to determine what is appropriate for acknowledging our nation's legal and cultural heritage," said Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund, in a statement Friday.

"The ACLU's sole and stated objective in this case was to have the Jesus painting removed. But the Constitution does not prohibit public buildings from memorializing great figures from our history."

The Jesus portrait, which had been on display in the courthouse for more than a decade, had spurred the ACLU to file a lawsuit claiming that the display violated the separation of church and state.

In response, the city of Slidell mounted additional portraits of 15 of history's preeminent lawgivers alongside the Jesus painting. The framed portraits added on Aug. 31 included those of Confucius, Hammurabi, Moses, Charlemagne, and Sir William Blackstone. Alongside the 16 framed portraits are a reproduction of the U.S. Constitution and a mounted explanation of the various figures in the paintings.

However the added prints did not appease the ACLU, which refused to drop the case.

"It's sad that we've reached a point where such images have to be defended," ADF's Johnson said. "The ruling today is believed to be the first-ever federal court decision to specifically review and uphold as constitutional an image of an adult Jesus on public display.

"While such images and other religious symbols are common in public buildings throughout the U.S., none have been challenged in this manner before," he added.

Judge Ivan Lemelle on Friday ruled against the ACLU and said the only remaining issue to be discussed is attorneys' fees.

ADF has many times defended communities in South Louisiana against ACLU lawsuits, including after Hurricane Katrina when the ACLU sued to block a privately funded memorial to storm victims because it included a cross.

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