Jesus Christ Almighty has been attending a rural Ohio public middle school for roughly the last 65 years and the school officials there just don’t want to let him go without a fight. His larger than life portrait has been hanging prominently all that time in an entrance way at Jackson County Middle School in a district several miles south of Columbus.
So the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, on behalf of local parents and a student, have filed a federal lawsuit demanding that Jesus be removed because his portrait in a public school amounts to a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution First Amendment Establishment Clause.
Well of course that is obviously true. I can hardly think of a more egregious violation of the Bill of Rights in a public school – a patently unconstitutional promotion of religion and in particular Christianity -- unless all the teachers and administrators were leading the captive children in classroom Christian prayers every day.
Perhaps that will be next if they are allowed to keep Jesus.
School Superintendent Phil Howard said he was surprised the lawsuit was filed before the district completed its investigation of the issue. The board will discuss "an appropriate course of action" at its Feb. 12 meeting, he claimed
Investigation? Discussion? Is that really necessary? Either the portrait is there or it is not there, and if it is there, then it constitutes a clear and present violation of the Establishment Clause for which the only " appropriate course of action" would be to remove it and hang it in a church or some other appropriate private place not associated with the school or the Jackson County government authorities.
This same Mr. Howard apparently said at a school board meeting last month: "We're not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn't hurt anyone."
Historical significance? Since when does that specious value judgment justify the promotion of Jesus and Christianity at a public school in the United States of America?
School officials and The Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, representing the school district, say the portrait was donated by a student group and has been in the school since about 1947, apparently without anyone complaining about it.; that’s the extent of the historical significance.
Jesus has been there for a long time; no one complained, so he should be allowed to stay. If constitutional rights are violated for a long time the violators should be allowed to continue the violations is their reasoning.
"It's obviously a delicate balance," said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute. The lawsuit is premature, he insisted. He said Liberty Institute planned to present its findings and recommendations to the school board at next week's meeting. He declined to discuss the findings, but said the goal was to make sure the legal rights of all involved were considered.
A delicate balance? That’s a stretch if I’ve ever heard one.
It’s a delicate balance because the school district wants Jesus to stay despite the fact that he’s violating the Establishment Clause – certainly not because there is any legal precedent what-so-ever for a portrait of Jesus Christ to be hanging prominently in a public middle school for 65 years.
Jackson County Ohio is wasting their time and money on this one.
Jesus Christ should be graduating soon from the public middle school in Ohio and going back to the church where he belongs.