Controversy Over Jesus Portrait in Ohio School

Rachel Decker
The Paw Print

An Ohio school district decided to take a portrait of Jesus off display in one of their high schools in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit on the rise. The portrait, which had hung in various schools amongst the district for 66 years, received complaints from a student and two parents, which resulted in a lawsuit against the district. The complaints were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

At first, the school district was willing to fight the ACLU for the rights to keep the portrait on display. It was the property of the Christian service club, the Hi-Y Club. The students in the club looked at it as an appropriate image to show their club’s mission. However, after the district’s insurance company declined covering the litigation costs, the district pulled back their defense and removed the portrait, just three days after Easter.

“At the end of the day, we just couldn’t roll the dice with taxpayer money,” said Superintendent Phil Howard. “When you get into these kinds of legal battles, you’re not talking about money you can raise with bake sales and car washes. It’s not fair to take those resources from our kids’ education.”

For now, the lawsuit has been put on hold. So long as the picture is kept down, the parents and student will not be pressing charges. Though it is a relief to have avoided the lawsuit, it is a bittersweet victory for the district. The portrait had hung in the school buildings since 1947, and it was almost a part of the school community.

This is not the first time that objects, rituals, or even classes have been banned from schools because of religious ties. Not too long ago, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against an Adams County school for a Ten Commandments display that was ruled to be religious in nature.

Cases like this leave the public wondering what is counted as ‘religious in nature’ and what is not. A popular controversy on the subject is the topic of the Pledge of Allegiance being said in school. Many districts make it a policy to recite the pledge, enforcing punishment for students who stay seated, stay quiet, or both.

“I will always stand to show respect to the flag, and to show respect to the students around me that say the pledge, but I don’t say it,” says Lacey Willem, a senior at Coronado High School. “I stand and I will put my hands behind my back, but I don’t say the words and I don’t want to pledge my allegiance using words I don’t believe in.”

It is a constant fight to keep church and state separate. The rules are not always clear, and it can be hard to decide what is religion-based, and what is simple expression of opinion. In most cases, it is best to take the safe road to avoid lawsuits and disputes, and until the rules become clearer, that seems to be the only option for the Ohio school district. is powered by WordPress µ | Spam prevention powered by Akismet