A devotional painting of Jesus Christ that hung for decades on a wall of a public middle school in Ohio was moved after challenges from First Amendment organizations — but now it is being displayed in a nearby public high school.
The Jackson County Times-Journal reported that the portrait, which was given as a gift in 1947 to a school building that is now Jackson Middle School in Jackson, became the subject of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who said the painting violates the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. It is hanging next to a large athletic trophy case.
The Jackson Board of Education decided to move the picture — to Jackson High School. Why? The Times-Journal said the decision was made because it was originally a gift from the Hi-Y Club, and the Christian organization, which still owns the painting, is still functioning at the high school and opted to move it there.
Local residents were unhappy with the move, so much so that big crowds at school board meetings where the issue was being discussed had to be moved to a larger venue, the Times-Journal reported.
A release on the website of the Freedom From Religion Foundation website says:
Immediately after the suit was filed, threats were posted on social media, one suggesting the plaintiffs ought to be shot, another that they ought to be beheaded. This evidence was brought to the attention of U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, a Clinton appointee. The judge acted swiftly, granting a motion for pseudonyms and protective order on Feb. 12.
Jackson School District Superintendent Phil Howard was quoted as saying by the Times-Journal:
Based upon the report and recommendations to the school board last month, it was made clear that the portrait can only hang in a school if it is student speech. If the portrait belonged to the school district, it would likely violate the Establishment Clause. The report based on an actual investigation confirmed that the portrait belongs to the Hi-Y Club and they have acknowledged ownership of it.
Here’s a video about the case from the Times-Journal: