ACLU Sends Letter Over Jackson Middle School's Jesus Portrait

By
Bethany Venable

Dateline
Updated Thu, Jan 10, 2013 12:25 pm
Photo Credit: 
Jeremiah Shaver, Jackson County Times-Journal

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is stepping into a controversy in the city of Jackson over whether a portrait of Jesus can remain hanging in the city's middle school.

According to a news release, the ACLU sent a letter to the Jackson City School district Thursday saying the portrait is unconstitutional.

The organization argues courts across the country have ordered other schools to take down similar displays.

"Separation of church and state is one of our nation's oldest traditions," said Drew Dennis, ACLU Ohio litigation coordinator. "The founders of our country recognized that public institutions need to be welcoming, inclusive places for all citizens, regardless of their faith or creed."

The portrait has hung in the school since 1947.

Superintendent Phil Howard said at a school board meeting earlier this week he will not remove the portrait without an order from a judge or the school board.

The organization learned of the portrait through media reports, says Jennifer Atzberger, senior staff attorney for the ACLU. 

Atzberger says the ACLU has not had any direct contact with anyone connected to the school and the letter is the organization's only planned involvement at this time.

"For us to take any further action, we would need to have an individual client," said Atzberger.

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