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article imageFFRF fails to get portrait of Jesus taken down by Ohio school

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jan 10, 2013 in World
Debate over the contentious issue of separation between Church and State at a school, the Jackson Middle School in southern Ohio, was centered over a painting, a "portrait" of Jesus hung over the entrance of the school.
The painting has reportedly been hanging over the entrance of the school since 1947.
According to the AP, the leaders of the southern Ohio school district refused to remove the portrait after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded it be removed. The FFRF's demand came after the it received a complaint from an unnamed source.
The Daily Caller reports that in a letter dated January 2, the FFRF warned the local school district authorities that displaying a religious portrait in a public institution was against the Constitution. According to The Daily Caller, Rebecca Markert, an official of FFRF, told WKKJ-FM:
"If a large portrait of Jesus were to hang in Jackson Middle School, an objective observer would have no doubt that it had the district’s stamp of approval."
In the letter she sent to the district authorities, Markert said that hanging the portrait in the public school was “an egregious violation of the First Amendment.” She demanded, sternly, that officials “remove the picture at once.”
She cited rulings by the US Supreme and federal courts in defense of her stance. Court rulings had declared that displays of religious images violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that Phil Howard, head of the Jackson City Schools, had earlier told Chillicothe radio station WKKJ, that it would take a court order to remove the picture which had been hanging over the entrance of the school for 65 years. He gave a historical background, saying that the painting was provided by a student club and that it is included among pictures in a "hall of honor."
The Columbus Dispatch reports Howard, said: “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."
After the district authorities received the letter from the FFRF, they convened a meeting to discuss whether the painting should remain. The crowd that turned up for the school board meeting was larger than expected. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the authorities had to move the crowd of about 300 from the school's music room to a commons area.
The people who stood up to speak against the portrait were booed, The Columbus Dispatch reports. One of the speakers opposing the image, Tricia Sturgeon, was booed. She said: "The painting is in clear violation of the First Amendment. It is still violating the United States Constitution and must be removed immediately." She argued that Federal Court rulings have established that public schools cannot display religious symbols and texts because they violate the Constitution.
Markett also reportedly said: "The school cannot endorse religion over non-religion. That sends an incredibly powerful message of religious endorsement, specifically Christianity... [in] violation of the U.S. Constitution. If this goes to court, the district would lose.”
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Superintendent Phil Howard told the crowd at Jackson High School that “we’re not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn't hurt anyone.”
The school board finally took no vote, but Howard in a statement announced the school board's decision: "With support of the board, the picture will stay." The crowd reportedly cheered.
A Jackson High student, Travis Hall, told WBNS-TV that the painting was an inspiration to him. He said: “Every day in school, I remember it being there. It was just motivation. It’s something I remember being there and I would love for it to stay there.”
The Columbus Dispatch, however, notes that a "1994 ruling from the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resulted in the removal of a painting depicting Jesus that had been displayed in a Michigan elementary school for more than 30 years. "
According to the court: “The portrait is moving for many of us brought up in the Christian faith, but that is the problem. The school has not come up with a secular purpose. The portrait advances religion. Its display entangles the government with religion."
More about Jesus, Portrait, School, Ffrf, church and state
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