Ohio principal values picture of Jesus over the education of his students.

The principal of a Southern Ohio Middle School is about to lower the quality of education in his school because of his religious convictions.

The local school district’s superintendent of schools says he won’t remove the picture with an order from the school board or a judge. He says the display comes from a student’s initiative, which makes its permissible for display. The portrait hangs in the school’s “Hall of Honor,” among other faces.

Look no further than Ahlquist v. Cranston for how a court is likely to deal with the “students took the initiative” defense.  It doesn’t matter if the students took the initiative to put a “whites only” sign over the water fountain, it’s illegal in a government building.  The picture of Jesus can go in the churches, in their homes, but not in a government building because it shows preference to a single religion.  It also creates a sense of inequality among the students.

And the principal saying the picture will stay regardless of who orders it removed isn’t a stand on principal – it’s a refusal to admit that his religion must submit to the law, and a lack of care for how many dollars earmarked for education his actions will cost.  And somebody who places his own religious beliefs over the quality of education for the students in his charge is unqualified for the job.

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