CINCINNATI: A Jesus portrait in an Ohio high school does not violate the constitutional prohibition against endorsing religion in a public school, and ordering it removed would violate students’ free speech rights, the school district argued in documents filed Tuesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the southern Ohio school district of Jackson in February, charging that the portrait then displayed in the middle school illegally promotes religion in a public school. The portrait was moved last month to the high school at the request of the Christian-oriented student club that owns the picture, and the ACLU and the foundation asked the judge Monday for a temporary order removing the portrait from there.
The complaint about the portrait has left the 2,500-student district in the midst of an ongoing national debate over what displays of religion are constitutional.
The district said in Tuesday’s filing that the club would be harmed by an order to remove the portrait that has been on display for decades.
The portrait is “private student speech in a limited public forum,” which is protected by the Constitution’s free speech clause, the district argued.
ACLU of Ohio spokesman Nick Worner said after the portrait was moved that “it is still an unconstitutional endorsement of religion on the part of a public school.”