Middle school principal loses his moxy when the bill for breaking the law comes in.

Remember when the principal of Southern Ohio Middle School said of a portrait of Jesus he had hanging in the school:

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.

Well, it turns out that a judge did order it to be removed and the principal stood by his word…until it was made clear that even for Christians there are penalties for breaking the law:

An Ohio middle school was forced to remove its portrait of Jesus and pay nearly $100,000 after reaching a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, who called the display unconstitutional.

“The law is pretty clear,” said James Hardiman, legal director for ACLU of Ohio. “The display of this particular kind of religious artifact [in a public school] is unconstitutional.”

Though both parties came to an agreement months ago, the school continued to display the portrait during a prayer meeting and made it visible to those entering an art-storage area. Superintendent Phil Howard said the portrait had historical significance and was not hurting anyone.

Howard also reportedly said he would not take down the portrait just because “some group from Madison, Wis., who knows nothing about the culture of [the] community” wanted him to remove it.

They may not know much about the culture of the community…but they sure know a lot about the law.

Did I say there were penalties for Christian law-breakers?  Oh, I meant there were penalties from the children whose future he’s supposed to be looking out for.

This settlement requires the district to pay both the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation nearly $100,000 for damages and legal fees.

Howard said the school finally agreed to remove the portrait because the fees were mounting, calling it the “best case scenario”.

The district will use its insurance to cover the $95,000 in fees instead of using taxpayer money, according to Howard.

Glad it’s not being paid with money earmarked for education, but their insurance premiums will go up and that will hurt the students.  All because a Christian felt it was his right to turn his nose up to the law.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • islandbrewer

    “some group from Madison, Wis., who knows nothing about the culture of [the] community” wanted him to remove it

    Because no one from Madison could ever know anything about the culture of a Jesus-soaked small midwestern town. That’s be totally alien to them.

    • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

      Heck, Madison even sounds like a Ferrin name, not a ‘Murican one.

  • Art_Vandelay

    You can buy insurance to cover any legal fees that come as a result of you breaking the law?

    • Loqi

      Has anyone informed the Catholic Church of this?

      • Artor

        The Catholic Church has it’s own insurance because nobody else will touch them.

        • Gehennah

          So sad, the Catholic Church wants to touch them, but the insurance companies won’t touch back.

    • Charles Raymond Miller

      No. At least not if it is an act of your own volition. Exceptions are limited to things like motor vehicle accidents or “errors and omissions”

  • baal

    Insurance doesn’t cover willful bad acts. It’s against public policy. I suspect the ACLU and FFRF aren’t pushing that since the school district funds would be used to pay instead of insurance money (and not the principals $$). The school board should fire that principal, however, for putting the education dollars in jeopardy. Note that I didn’t hold this position until it became clear that the principal has turned this jesus image into a fetish (sociological term) and is willfully violating judicial orders (and thus risking the insurance payments).


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