The Jackson City School District in southern Ohio has settled a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation over a picture of Jesus that hung in the lobby of the school for decades. They agreed to remove the picture and pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs.
In the settlement accepted yesterday by U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, the Jackson City School District agreed to pay $3,000 in damages to each of the suit’s five anonymous plaintiffs.
The district also will pay $80,000 to cover legal fees incurred by the Ohio chapter of the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis., which sued the district on behalf of the three parents and two students…
“This 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,” he [James Hardiman, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio] said. “This is a basic constitutional principle backed up by decades of case law.”
Messages left yesterday for the school district’s attorneys and for Superintendent Phil Howard were not returned, but in a statement released to the Associated Press, Howard said the attorneys believed that settling was the “best-case scenario” because of mounting expenses. He said the district’s insurance, not taxpayers, will pay the damages and legal fees.
The ACLU is right, this could all have been avoided if they had just admitted that it was illegal and taken it down up front. Their attorney likely told them they were going to lose the case.