FFRF and ACLU of Ohio Sue School District Over Middle School’s Giant Portrait of Jesus

You may remember Jackson Middle School in Jackson, Ohio and the giant portrait of Jesus hanging on its walls:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had lodged a complaint with the school — but the school board decided last month to stand firm in their disregard for the Constitution. They voted to let the portrait stay.

Looks like their punishment is underway: The FFRF and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio have filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the district on behalf of anonymous plaintiffs:

Dan Barker, FFRF co-president and a former evangelical minister, is very familiar with the painting, having encountered it himself in countless Christian churches. “It boggles the mind that in 2013, a public school superintendent and school board would not understand that a devotional painting of Jesus, called ‘The Head of Christ,’ — identical to millions hanging in churches and Sunday school classrooms around the country — may not be posted at the entrance of a middle school.”

Displaying the portrait violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the 14th Amendment and Article I, Section 7 of the Ohio Constitution, the suit alleges, and the defendants’ actions “have no legitimate secular purpose, and are motivated by a desire to advance a religious purpose.”

Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group, is representing the school board and they’re upset the lawsuit was filed so quickly:

“This lawsuit is premature,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Director of Litigation. “We reached out to the ACLU and FFRF for dates they would be available to meet, so that we could include their input in the investigation before we made a final report and recommendation to the Board. Rather than responding to our request to meet with them, the ACLU and FFRF filed a lawsuit before they even knew what action the Board intended to take.”

Makes sense to me — why waste time shaking hands when you’re going to engage in battle, anyway?

I know I’m not a lawyer, but I have no idea how anyone could make a secular argument for keeping that portrait right where it is. The Christians representing the school board will inevitably make the same horrible arguments we hear time and time: Tradition and “But no one else has ever complained about it!”

Neither argument addresses the actual issue. The portrait is illegal whether or not anyone has ever said anything about it — and it needs to be taken down.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    It will be an expensive lesson for the school, but they’ll at least get to demonstrate for their students what it is like to get clobbered for having violated the US Constitution.

    • ortcutt

      As someone pointed out the last time this was brought up, there is binding case law in the Sixth Circuit on exactly this issue, even to the point of involving the exact same painting. So, it’s an open-and-shut case.

      https://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/33/33.F3d.679.93-1248.html

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Close to open-and-shut, anyway. The school board’s lawyers can try to argue that post-1994 SCOTUS rulings leave it allowable (mainly Van Orden v. Perry) on “historical” grounds. However, I don’t think that’s going to fly.

        • Lurker111

          If Jesus existed, he’d have been middle-eastern or Mediterranean in stock (and features), not Anglo-Saxon. So they’d fail on historical grounds, too.

    • stargayzer

      possibly not… they may have corrected the issue…. from this report…

      http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2013/02/13/jackson-jesus-portrait-legal-argument.html

      The school board voted to establish a limited public forum to allow other student groups to post similar portraits.

      “Let me give you a perfect example, the French Club could put up a picture of the Eiffel tower,” said Phil Howard, Jackson City Schools superintendent.

      The fact that they will allow anybody to display ‘similar’ portraits may be enough to let it remain. We can only hope that some group decides to put up truly similar portraits…. the Eiffel tower is hardly similar…. perhaps somebody will put up a star of David, a star and crescent, Satan, or the FSM.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I don’t give that solution much of a chance. I can’t find anything exactly the same, but in cases where they try to get around it by putting things to a vote, it fails. If the school put up a display of religion leaders, it would be fine.

        That was something that was proposed by the ACLU side at Cranston, allow other things along with the ‘school prayer’, so I’m not certain. But if anything saves them, it will be other things actually being up, not the fact that some groups of students can put things up.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Oh this is telling…

        Reporter: “A group could put up a picture of the profit Muhammad?”

        Phil Howard, Jackson City Schools superintendent: “Let me give you a perfect example, the French Club could put up a picture of the Eiffel tower,”

        So not only did he propose the Eiffel tower as a ‘perfect example’ he completely side stepped Mo.

        Ya, that’s going to work real well…

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

        OK, then. Jesus has been the only deity-type figure shown for the past 55-years. Let’s rotate him out and put a different deity portrait up for the next 55-years, then a different one for the 55-years after that, until it cycles back to Jesus maybe in a few thousand years. I agree with you that the Flying Spaghetti Monster should get the rotation that runs next…. which would be 2013-2068.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001736525906 Hamid Afra

    instead of spending money and going to court just add a picture of Mohammad , Buddha and Satan , they will take everything down themselves :D

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    And, “but he’s an important historical figure!”

    • C Peterson

      So not only is the civics department of this school incompetent, but so too is the history department.

    • Jasper

      So is Muhammad, although it’s debatable who would be more upset for hanging a portrait of Muhammad – the Christians or the Muslims.

      • C Peterson

        No, Mohammed actually is an historical figure- that is not disputed by historians. The historicity of Jesus is certainly a matter of controversy.

        • bernardaB

          It is not sure that Mohammed was an actual historical figure. Like with Jesus, the events of his life were written long after his supposed death, even longer than that of Jesus. There is little reason even to suspect that he was an actual person.

          • C Peterson

            I don’t think there is any doubt about the historicity of Mohammed. Certainly, there are many biographical details that are highly questionable given the uncertain quality of sources. But overall, the independent lines of evidence rise to levels that historians accept as essentially definitive (quite different from the case with Jesus).

            • bernardaB

              Do a search on “historical Muhammad” or something similar to find out the contrary.

              • C Peterson

                I did. And I didn’t find much to the contrary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

    I don’t think that just having a portrait of Jesus in a school violates the establishment clause. It’s a portrait of a (probably) historical figure whose ideas have had an enormous influence on the history of the U.S. (and the history of Ohio, for that matter). It is no different from putting up a portrait of Julius Caesar, who also was thought by many to be the son of god. It would only become an establishment issue if the school began teaching that this historical figure actually was the son of god.

    • Randomfactor

      So put Caesar’s portrait, same size, right next to it. Then Confucius. Attila. Why is there only one “historical portrait” there? That’s why it has to go.

      • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

        There is only one historical portrait because Jesus had much more of an influence on the United States than Caesar, Confucius, or Attila.

        • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

          First of all, Jesus can’t be considered a historical figure. The historicity of Jesus is far from proven. Secondly, portraits of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Payne, or George Washington are much more appropriate as they were greater influences on the U.S.

          • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

            I happen to think that the evidence for the historicity of Jesus is pretty strong, but that doesn’t really matter. The historicity of Socrates is not well-established, but I don’t think anyone would object to a portrait of Socrates on the grounds that he might have been just a fiction created by Plato or someone else. The ideas attributed to Socrates and Jesus have been influential.

            I agree that Jefferson, Payne, and Washington had greater proximate influence on the U.S. But now we’re just getting into an argument about the degree to which the school has accurately represented the history of the U.S., which is a completely separate argument. The argument seems to be: “If you display only one portrait of an historical figure in a school, then it must be a portrait of the person who had the most influence on the U.S.” This is a pretty dubious argument. Somehow, I think that if it was a portrait of a famous Native American chief, we would not be having this discussion, even though no Native American chief was as influential as George Washington, and one could argue that no Native American chief was as influential as Jesus.

            • DougI

              Probably because Native American chiefs existed and actually had an influence on American history. A fictional character that supposedly existed 2000 years ago and never wrote anything down and didn’t have an original though attributed to him didn’t have any influence on American history.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              No. The argument is that Jesus isn’t there to represent history, he’s there to endorse a particular religious point of view. Saying the picture is only there because he’s a person of history is trying to give the portrait a secular purpose. Fine. If they want to pretend that the picture is there for purely secular reasons (nothing about him being the son of God or anything, No!) then they have to explain why they picked one historical figure to highlight, and no others. And why it just so happens that this historical figure also happens to be best known on religious terms.

              Treating him as a purely historical figure is playing word games. It’s been tried before, and the court won’t buy it.

              • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

                If you can’t see why Christ might be chosen to highlight the history of a country that was founded by Christians fleeing from persecution, I don’t know what to say.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  They weren’t fleeing persecution. They were fleeing from freedom. They were seeking the chance to do their own persecution.

                  If you actually think that portrait was put there for purely secular reasons, then I don’t know what to day, other than the courts, thankfully, have already ruled against that hand wave.

                • jdm8

                  Yes, Some US *colonies* were founded by Christians fleeing from persecution… …from other Christians. Also, once those Christians fled persecution, the tended to go on to persecute other types of Christians. By the time the US Constitution was drafted, there was a strong wind of secularism, hence the Establishment Clause.

                • Sue Blue

                  Not only did they persecute other Christians – let’s not forget about how they treated Native Americans and their beliefs…and how they treated indigenous cultures worldwide. According to some sources, the annihilation of indigenous Americans and their cultures by European Christians was the single greatest act of genocide ever committed.

                • Randomfactor

                  When you don’t know what to say, try saying nothing at all.

                • GeraardSpergen

                  You don’t REALLY think that the portrait’s there because he’s a historical figure though… right? That’s just the loophole the district is using to skirt the Constitution. It’s really there because the school has established Christianity as the official religion… and that’s why it has to come down.

                • baal

                  I don’t see how you say things like “Christ might be chosen to highlight the history of a country” and claim to not be a christian. The two statements are at odds. Also, you might have a point were the image similarly sized and with a number of other religious figures or in a hall with ‘controversial figures in history’ that the school’s English classes all have to write long papers about. That’s not the case. Here we have a “The Christ” alone and prominently displayed on the main exit for the building. The Christians of the school have statements in public about Him blessing all the students with his presence as they walk out. That’s clearly sectarian and pushes xtianity onto all the students who are mandated by government to go to this governmental facility on a daily basis.

              • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

                In this particular case, the portrait was given to the school by a group of students in the late 1940s and the school board decided to put it up. That still doesn’t save it, as the prayer banner case shows.

            • ecolt

              I’m not going to argue the point, but the evidence for the historical Jesus is far from proven. It’s far from even compelling.

              And at issue in this case is that the school claimed that Jesus was on a wall of people who have been important to the school. However, as you can see in larger images of the wall, Jesus is alone on that wall, in a place of obvious prestige. He is not included with historical figures. Even if he were, the influence of Jesus has not been in law, education or any of the other fields that directly affect this country (unlike the actual American historical figures that could be included in such a display). His influence has been on religion and religious views and such a portrait is in fact a blatant violation of the establishment clause.

              At best, your line of thinking teaches children to accept as historical proof that which has scant evidence, if any – the opposite of the kind of critical thinking we should be encouraging in schools.

              I should also point out that the particular portrait is far from one showing any kind of historical Jesus. What I was always taught (in a Catholic school) was that the highlights on Jesus’s forehead in this painting show the chalice and wafer of communion; if you look closely the shapes are clearly visible. So this isn’t a neutral portrait, it’s one that specifically refers to the very Christian idea of salvation through the “body and blood.”

              This type of ill-informed, revisionist nonsense is exactly what gives people like the board members at this school the idea that they can get away with violating the Constitution and their students’ basic rights.

              • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

                where is my fucking portrait of Durga, dammit?

                Durga, Inanna and Aphrodite! fuck jeebus. we’re sexier.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Let’s get Bast up there, too!

                • cipher

                  That would violate the civil rights of the dog people.

                • baal

                  I hear Baal is pretty awesome too.

            • Greg G.

              Nearly every passage in Mark can be traced to the literature of the day, such as the Old Testament, the Odyssey, Plato, Galatians, 1 Corinthians and maybe Q. The other gospels use his stories. The Epistles should be the best evidence but they never mention a ministry, teachings, sayings, deeds, or anecdotes. They mention the crucifixion often but never give details. The extra biblical evidence tells us that some people a generation too late thought there was a Jesus.

              What strong evidence do you have?

        • http://www.facebook.com/cecelia.baines.5 Cecelia Baines

          Revisionist nonsense.

          What about Chief Seattle? Or Sacagewa? How about George Washington Carver or perhaps Hellen Keller? They all had tremendous influence over US policies and laws, yet they are ignored and forgotten, but they had MORE DIRECT INFLUENCE over how the USA’s policies and laws were shaped than some myth-Jew with long hair who everyone gathers to eat in cracker form on Sundays.

          • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

            I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to suggest that Native American chiefs or people like George Washington Carver and Helen Keller didn’t have enormous influence. I’m simply making the point that there is nothing wrong with putting a single portrait of someone in a school even if that person wasn’t the most influential person in the history of the U.S. If we had this requirement, then schools which only have one portrait would all be required to have a portrait of the same person, which would be just silly.

            • C Peterson

              I’m simply making the point that there is nothing wrong with putting a single portrait of someone in a school even if that person wasn’t the most influential person in the history of the U.S.

              There is certainly something wrong with placing a single portrait of a major religious icon in a public school. There is no way that a reasonable person could see this example as anything other than a religious endorsement, and that is constitutionally prohibited in this setting.

            • TicklishMeerkat

              No, what’s silly is the hand-waving you’re having to do to justify what is clearly an endorsement of Christianity. They’re not doing it for history, because Jesus isn’t historical but religious in nature, and they’re not teaching the kids Ancient Middle Eastern history in school. The douchey “I’m simply making the point” thing doesn’t help either, nor the false dilemma that it’s either “no portrait” or “the same single portrait” in all schools. You’re not making any point. There’s nothing wrong with *a* portrait, but when that portrait is of someone inherently and purely religious, the Establishment Clause takes over.

              Dude, you’re wrong, and the courts just don’t agree with you. You barely even make logical sense here.

        • http://twitter.com/JasonOfTerra PhiloKGB

          I’m pretty sure Jesus had no influence whatsoever on the US.

          That said, I wonder if the legal team has considered the argument that it’s not actually Jesus: “Your honor, no reasonable person could believe that this painting represents a first-century CE Middle Eastern Jew.”

        • RobMcCune

          Sorry, that painting where he hands George Washington the constitution is not entirely accurate.

        • cipher

          I think one could argue successfully that the Enlightenment philosophers had more of an influence (certainly more of an immediate one) upon most of the Founding Fathers than did Jesus – but you don’t see them rushing to put up a portrait of Voltaire.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      You would be wrong on your first think. This is settled case law. Individual pictures of Jesus in schools are a violation of the establishment clause.

      https://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/33/33.F3d.679.93-1248.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

        I agree that any judge lower than the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit would be obligated by precedent to rule against the portrait. But we can still discuss whether or not the Sixth Circuit made the right decision.

        • blasphemous_kansan

          Are you tired from carrying around those goalposts?

          Your original argument was “not a big deal, just a picture of a historic figure”.

          Then when the fallacy of that was pointed out, your argument became “not a big deal, ’cause Jesus is a bigger deal than any other historic figure”

          Then, when the incorrectness of that statement was pointed out, and it was explained to you that there is legal precedent, your argument has now become “well, maybe the court was wrong, eh? Let’s talk about that.”

          No, we don’t need to talk about that, because they made the correct decision: A public school, funded by citizens of different and no faith, should not endorse one religious figure over another. The Sixth Circut has wisely seen through the ‘historical figure’ gibberish, and will continue to do so in the future. Zip up your Christian entitlement, and move on.

          • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

            I’m not a Christian. I just think there’s no sense in treating a portrait of any person as more or less special than any other person, from a legal perspective. It only becomes a religious issue if the school begins to make religious claims about the person in the portrait.

            • allein

              The problem here is that the person in this particular portrait is only important because he is a religious figure.

              • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

                Forcing a school to take down a picture of a person due to the religious affiliations of that person is precisely what the 1st amendment was written to protect against.

                • RobMcCune

                  Actually using a school as religious billboard is what the establishment clause is there to prevent. Freedom of speech is for private citizens. When they act on behalf of another, including the government, they are under the obligations that come with that responsibility. They can also be held accountable for that.

                • Gary

                  Citizens can freely exercise religion, not government.

                • allein

                  It’s not about his “religious affiliations.” Jesus is only important in our culture because of the beliefs of a specific religion. He would not be on anyone’s radar as a “historical figure” if it weren’t for the dominance of the Christian religion in this country.

                • ecolt

                  This isn’t about Jesus’s “religious affiliation.” He was a Jew and I have a feeling that Judaism is not the majority religion of the school board. It’s about the fact that he is the central figure of the religion. There would literally be no religion without him.
                  This is not the same as saying, “Oh we can’t hang up a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. because he was a Christian minister.” That’s not why he’s important to US History. Not to mention that King was real. Tell me what historical importance and impact Jesus, if there was such a man, had outside of Christianity.
                  Honestly, Travis, just give it up. We don’t agree with you, the courts don’t agree with you, the Constitution doesn’t agree with you, common sense doesn’t agree with you.

                • b33bl3br0x

                  Your statement,”Forcing a school to take down a picture of a person due to the religious affiliations of that person is precisely what the 1st amendment was written to protect against.” would be a valid argument only if people were arguing that the picture should be taken down because Jesus was a Jew. Just as if someone argued that a bust of Socrates should be removed from a literature class because he was a pagan, or a picture of Ghandi should be taken out of a history class because he was Hindu (please spare the pedantic posts about Ghandi’s religion being not so clear, you get the point).

                  This is not “tak[ing] down a picture of a person due to the religious affiliations of that person.” This is removing a religious icon from prominent display in a school. Particularly also, the context of the picture makes it clear that it serves no function to further education (such as you might have with pictures of Greek and/or Roman artwork depicting Zeus or Heracles in a classroom in which classical mythology is taught from a literature standpoint, or religious icons in a classroom devoted to teaching comparative religion courses).

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Ghandi’s religion being not so clear

                  Is that actually a thing? I read his autobiography years ago, and I thought it was extremely clear that he was a Hindu. I mean, he recognized that he was a Hindu mostly because of where he was born, but he also explicitly rejected suggestions that he change to anything else.

                  I do have a relative who thinks that his last line (“Oh, God!”) in the Ben Kingsley movie amounts to a deathbed conversion.

                • b33bl3br0x

                  I have seen some suggest that some of his statements amount to him rejecting religion, even though he had never clearly called himself anything else. I was trying to head off someone pushing some of these quotes at me to argue the point.

            • Gary

              So Travis, why do you think the school is displaying the portrait? Is it because he is an important historical figure or because he is central to the religion of the majority of citizens there? Be honest.

            • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

              well, you’re an idiot.

              let’s say this was “a portrait” of Durga.

              are you OK with that? cause yeah, she’s “historical.” and totally not offensive to OH xtian parents with kids in this school.

            • blasphemous_kansan

              *Sigh*. Not done with the goalposts yet, I see. So now it’s the school’s fault for making a big deal out of the portrait? Do you have a point other than pedantry?

              I admit I thought you were a Christian, but notice that I did not accuse you of that in my last comment. I accused you of having a sense of Christian entitlement, which I have observed among lots of not necessarily Christian people with a ‘what’s the harm?’ attitude regarding state-funded religious displays. They usually get the point by now, though.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          However, to discuss whether or not the Sixth Circuit made the legally correct decision, you have to address the reasoning given by the Sixth Circuit.

          Alternately, you can discuss “right” from some standpoint other than legal, though it would help to be explicit about which.

        • Ryan

          Your understanding of binding vs. nonbinding precedent is incorrect, sir.

    • C Peterson

      Jesus is a mythical character, not a historical one, and not a character who has had great influence on American history. And this image is not accompanied by other influential figures (historical or otherwise). It is impossible to see this image, given the way it is presented, as anything other than a religious statement, and therefore something which is illegal in this setting.

    • DougI

      Yeah, it teaches kids that Middle Eastern Jews looked like Hitler’s idea of a master Aryan race. Perhaps the school could solve the problem by putting other fictional characters next to it, like Santa, the Easter Bunny, Paul Bunyun, Leroy Jenkins and Lucky the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

      • Daniel

        Please adjust your list. Leroy Jenkins is real!

        • DougI

          Yeah, but he got all my friends killed so I deny his existence.

      • Kengi

        Why don’t the Luigi Brothers ever get the respect they deserve?

    • allein

      It could be argued that people’s belief in Jesus has had an impact on our country’s history, but Jesus the person (granting for the sake of argument that he even existed) did not. He lived thousands of years before the very idea of the United States of America was ever conceived. As a “historical figure,” he had nothing whatsoever to do with the building of our country. His portrait has no place in public schools.

    • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

      This discussion inspired me to make this comic:

      http://godelia.co.nf/2013/02/09/establishment-clause/

      • allein

        How does arguing that a portrait of a religious figure doesn’t belong in public schools make that religious figure historically important in a secular sense?

        • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

          The joke is that the portrait itself becomes historically significant by being the subject of a landmark court case.

          • allein

            Um…no.

          • blasphemous_kansan

            7/10 for pedantry.
            Nicely done, good form.

  • Angry Atheist

    Ahh, just leave it there, does it really matter?

    • Randomfactor

      Yeah, it does.

    • smoochiepie

      troll? You know it matters to us or you wouldn’t be at this blog

    • http://www.facebook.com/cecelia.baines.5 Cecelia Baines

      You are right. We’ll just leave that up because it doesn’t matter. And while we are at it, I don’t see why the “White’s Only” signs had to come down at water fountains and restrooms. Craziness I tell you.

      *dumbass*

    • RobertoTheChi

      YES! It very much does matter.

    • TicklishMeerkat

      If it mattered that little, then nobody’d mind it being removed. Right?

      You have to fight every single time one of these things happens, or you’re going to end up a decade from now with some Christian whining that well, nobody ever complained before…. They like to point to tradition as a way of justifying abuse and invalidating and chilling dissent. So remove that ability. Stand firm and don’t give ground. Christians don’t respect anything but absolutes; they do not recognize appeasement or compromise. So neither can we.

    • Ryan

      It’s a Constitutional issue, so yeah, it matters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cecelia.baines.5 Cecelia Baines

    Bullshit. That’s not Jesus. It’s Duane Allman. I say keep it up and let the students rock on dammit.

    • Infidel1000

      Bull-sheeit! Put a cowboy hat on him. That’s Chris Ferguson.

  • A3Kr0n

    Is it legal to have a Christian legal group represent the public school board in a court of law?

    • allein

      Hmm…hadn’t thought of that. You’d think the school board would have its own legal counsel. (Hopefully one who would advise them of the actual law and prevent them wasting their time and taxpayers’ money.)

      • Alan Bloor

        Perhaps that’s why they’re being represented by this Christian group? Their own legal counsel told them they couldn’t win.

      • Erp

        It is probably fine as long as the school board isn’t paying them. My guess is the group is doing it gratis but the school board will be liable for any penalties. Or the insurance company but insurance companies will probably refuse to pay if the school’s legal counsel recommended against. Note the legal counsel might have told the school board to go ahead but would still welcome free apparent expert help.

  • Erp

    It doesn’t matter whether the picture is of someone historical or not (though Jesus is accepted by almost all historians of the era as historical but with a heavy overlay of myth) but what the painting stands for. In this case the painting stands for Christianity just as a painting of Krishna would stand for Hinduism or a portrait of Joseph Smith would stand for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I wonder what the non-Mormon reaction would be to a picture of Joseph Smith in a similar prominent position in a public school in Utah. Certainly Mormons could point to the very important influence of Joseph Smith to the existence of Utah as it is.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      i am disappointed in your faith in Durga, you fake Hindu you. ;-)

  • The Nads

    They are just playing the persecution card as usual.

  • Stonyground

    Stonyground says:
    I really don’t understand the mentality of these people. Why deliberately break the law in the first place? Then when someone points out to them that the picture is illegal and they need to take it down, they refuse, in full knowledge that they will be taken to court and that it is really obvious that they will lose. Do they think that they are scoring brownie points with their witless god?

    • WallofSleep

      Martyr street cred. They’re doing it for martyr street cred.

      “We fought the Good Fight, but we lost. See how persecuted we are in this country?”

      • Thin-ice

        Exactly. The same mentality as the christians thrown to the Roman lions. They aren’t going to deny Jesus no matter what the consequences. Jesus would be pissed that the portrait he paid good bucks to have made might be thrown in the dumpster.

    • eskomo

      Why break the law? Politics. The board is elected by a majority that thinks it is good to do this.So it’s break the law, school pays fine, keep job. Follow the law, no fine, lose job.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

        School Board Member is not much of a “job”. They may lose their position but would keep their integrity.

    • TicklishMeerkat

      It’s much worse than that. They’re trying to score brownie points with the fundie parents in the area as much as they are with their insane, temper-tantrum-throwing god. They’ll be able to tell the Christian parents in the area that well, they tried, but look at them damn atheists being all mean to them! That this sop thrown to the fundies will cost potentially millions doesn’t matter, because most people don’t even think of that as real money anyway. I hope all the parents of that district hold that school and its board accountable for the money that’s going to be wasted on this frivolous, wasteful lawsuit.

      • cipher

        Then it’ll be, “Well, we would have liked to have put up that new gymnasium, but them damn atheists made us spend all the money on lawyers!”

      • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

        Isn’t the great irony that God made them fight the lawsuit and then made them lose?

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

      Your missing a key distinction here. They are not breaking “gawd’s” law. They are only breaking the laws of the land. The problem arises due to the interpretation of Romans 13: 1-7. They probably believe that gawd authorized the writing of the United States Constitution and the Separation Clause is simply another fine example of the errancy of men.

      • cipher

        They probably believe that gawd authorized the writing of the United States Constitution and the Separation Clause is simply another fine example of the errancy of men.

        There is no “probably” about it. That is precisely what they beleive.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    The ACLU and FFRF already know what Liberty Institute would have recommended. They are like the Alliance Defense Fund and would have said it was legal.

  • Kengi

    “…the ACLU and FFRF filed a lawsuit before they even knew what action the Board intended to take.”

    The board met last month and already made its decision to fight. We already know what action the board intends to take, because the board already plainly stated their intention.

    The Liberty Institute’s opening salvo already includes a blatant, easily falsifiable lie. I’m shocked!

    • baal

      “Makes sense to me — why waste time shaking hands when you’re going to engage in battle, anyway?”

      The ACLU and the FFRF would have sent demand letters prior to filing an action in court. In less legalese, these orgs are professional and follow the usual steps that attorneys do. Step 1 is to ask nicely. Step 2 is to ask not nicely. Step 3 (or later) is filing the action. Why spend the time, effort and money if you can get what you want for the price of an easy to write letter (there is a binding case on point for the very same image!). Kengi is right, the Liberty Institute is lying.

  • Kengi

    Hmm. I wonder if the Liberty Institute will try to turn the same argument into a move for dismissal in court?

    “Your honor, I know the school board said they weren’t going to remove the painting, but they might change their mind at some point in the future, so there’s really no need for this to go to trial. I move to dismiss the case on the basis that, at an undetermined future point in time, the painting may be taken down anyway.”

  • Sue Blue

    What I really want to know is why school administrators would think that a picture of a Northern-European-looking bearded hippie wearing a dress will turn teenage kids into God-fearing, clean-cut, whitebread conservatives….magic, maybe?

    • ZenDruid

      Spread the rumor that Jesus was actually a bearded woman, and watch what happens.

  • roberthughmclean

    I recently saw a computer generated image of what the baby jesus would have really looked like and it was nothing like the jesus on the school wall. Perhaps it’s really that mormon fraudster, Joe Smith?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Below is the picture you are typing about.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    The painting is an eyesore and should be removed solely on those grounds. The constitutional violation is just icing on the cake.

  • bernardaB

    Let’s have a picture of the Baron D’Holbach, considered to be the first contemporary atheist ifrom the 18th century. At least we know that he was a historical person.

    http://ffh.films.com/Common/FMGimages/38700_full.jpg

    Also, that picture of “Jesus” looks like my brother from his hippy days. He should get royalties.

  • Thin-ice

    Jesus paid good money to have that portrait done of himself. You think he won’t be pissed off to see it in the dumpster behind the school? The school board is right to be afraid of him…

  • Jim

    After the Jackson school board looses this suit and has to pay many tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs, some citizen in Jackson should sue the individual members of the board and attempt to recover these lost public funds from them. The board knows full well that they have no legal case to make, so any decision to fight a pointless and expensive legal battle is surely malfeasance and misappropriation of public funds for which the board members should be held personally accountable. It’s long since time to stop tolerating public funds being wasted on futile attempts to establish religion in the public schools. It’s long since time to hold demagogue politicians personally accountable for the funds they waste in such frivolous litigation.


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