A painting of Jesus Christ, upper left, hanging above an entrance to Jackson Middle School in Jackson, Ohio. (AP)
An Ohio school district has agreed to keep a portrait of Jesus Christ off school property and pay a $95,000 fine in the face of legal pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Jackson City School District, located in Jackson, reached a deal on Friday after the ACLU, along with the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, sued the district in February, citing “unconstitutional” actions and charging that students and visitors to the school “will continue to suffer permanent, severe and irreparable harm and injury,” according to the lawsuit.
The picture had been hanging in Jackson’s high school since 1947 as part of a “Hall of Honor” display meant to highlight famous historical figures.
“The case could have ended before it began if the school had simply acknowledged that it is not the government’s place to endorse one specific religion in a public school that children are legally required to attend,” said James Hardiman, the legal director for Ohio’s ACLU chapter.
The case, in which the district was being represented by the Texas-based Liberty Institute, was brought before the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, though the school eventually agreed to the settlement rather than spend taxpayer dollars on fighting the lawsuit, said Phil Howard, the district’s superintendent.
The portrait was removed by April, and both parties announced in July that they had reached a tentative agreement pending a final settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the district will pay the money to the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation for damages and legal fees.