ACLU, Atheist Group Sue Ohio School District Over Jesus Portrait

The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have filed suit against an Ohio school district where one school has a prominently displayed portrait of Jesus Christ.

Jackson City Schools of Jackson, Ohio was sued by the ACLU and FFRF on Thursday; the case will be put before the US District Court of the Southern District of Ohio. "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," reads the suit in part.

"As a direct result of these unconstitutional actions, Plaintiffs and other likeminded citizens and residents have suffered, and will continue to suffer permanent, severe and irreparable harm and injury."

Jackson City Schools provided The Christian Post with a statement by Superintendent Phil Howard regarding the recently filed suit. "We are shocked and surprised to hear about this lawsuit. FFRF had asked us to do an investigation, which we started almost immediately," said Howard.

"The investigation is almost complete and our attorneys are going to make a report and recommendations at our next board of education meeting on an appropriate course of action."

Howard added that at the present time Jackson City Schools had neither seen nor had been served the suit.

Last month, the Wisconsin-based FFRF sent a letter of complaint to Jackson City Schools over allegations that a portrait of Jesus prominently hung in one of their public school facilities. Rebecca Markert, FFRF staff attorney, told the school district in the letter that the Jesus portrait was "an egregious violation of the First Amendment."

"It is illegal for Jackson Middle School to post religious images on the walls of its school. If true, the District must remove the picture of Jesus at once," wrote Markert. "We ask that you commence an immediate investigation into this allegation and take the appropriate and necessary steps to bring Jackson Middle School into compliance with the Constitution."

The Liberty Institute, a Texas-based conservative law firm, will be representing Jackson City Schools during the legal proceedings and was part of the investigation into the constitutionality of the portrait. The portrait was placed at Jackson Middle School in 1947, when a student organization called the Hi-Y Club, an organization associated with the Young Man's Christian Association (YMCA), donated it.

In an interview with WKKJ-FM of Chillicothe, Superintendent Howard said the Jesus portrait was one of several pictures on the "Hall of Honor" display at Jackson Middle.

"I'm certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wisconsin, who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down," said Howard.

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