A school district in Ohio has decided to stand up to the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) over a classic portrait of Jesus that has hung in a local school since 1947. The FFRF sent a letter in early January to school officials in Jackson City, Ohio, charging that the presence of the framed print in the community's middle school is a violation of the First Amendment's supposed separation of church and state, and must be taken down.
A local resident reportedly complained about the picture to the FFRF, prompting the letter from the group's attorney, Rebecca Markert. “It is illegal for Jackson Middle School to post religious images on the walls of its school,” wrote Markert, adding that if what her group had been told is true, “the District must remove the picture of Jesus at once. 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.”
Markert told local reporters that not only would the presence of such a picture be unconstitutional, but would also be an affront to non-Christian students, staff, and local residents. “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,” Markert observed.
Phil Howard, the district's superintendent, was apparently not influenced by the FFRF's actions. He explained that the portrait of Jesus, placed at the school some 55 years ago by a local chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), is one of several prints displayed in the school's Hall of Honor, which includes notable alumni and influential historical figures.
“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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