Eye on Education

Atheist Group Threatens to Sue Ohio School for Jesus Painting UPDATED

Rupert Morris / Flickr

An atheist group is threatening to sue Jackson City School District in southeastern Ohio over a large painting of Jesus displayed in a hallway at Jackson Middle School.

In a letter, published by WBEX here, the Freedom from Religion Foundation tells the district’s superintendent that “it is illegal for Jackson Middle School to post religious images on the walls of its schools.”

The letter goes on the say that “if a district were to promote a religion over non-religion, it would impermissibly turn any non-believing student, parent, or staff member into an outsider.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it was first alerted to the painting through a letter that included a photo of the painting in question. The Foundation won’t say who sent that initial compliant.

But district staff aren’t taking the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter too seriously.

District superintendent Phil Howard told WBEX:

“I’m certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wisconsin, who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down.”

Howard told the local radio station the painting of Jesus is allowed because it was student initiated. The painting was a gift from a group of students to the school in 1947.

And he told the Jackson County Daily the only way he’d take it down is if he was ordered to do so by his school board, or by a court.

UPDATE 01/10/13

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio also sent a letter to Jackson City School District requesting the painting of Jesus be removed.

In a press release the ACLU of Ohio writes:

“Separation of church and state is one of our nation’s oldest traditions,” said (ACLU of Ohio Litigation Coordinator and Staff Attorney Drew) Dennis. “The founders of our country recognized that public institutions need to be welcoming, inclusive places for all citizens, regardless of their faith or creed. Public school displays that advance one particular religious tradition are neither welcoming, nor inclusive for those who may have other beliefs.”
The ACLU of Ohio also noted they don’t agree with the superintendent’s argument that the painting should stay because it was a gift from a student organization.
“The fact that this portrait has been hanging for many years does not change the fact that it promotes one set of religious beliefs at the expense of all others,” added Dennis. “Jackson City Schools should take this opportunity to remove or alter their middle school display to better reflect and respect the diversity of the modern community.”
But a school board meeting earlier this week drew large crowds that overwhelmingly favored keeping the painting, booing one of only only two people among some 300 that spoke out against it.



  • Becky

    This dicussses me so much surely they are no going to let the non beleivers of god take over. Everybody has there own beleif but God needs to be In our schools to keep everybodys chilren safe from all the terror from shooting . I beleive that pray should be back in school and todays soceity wouldnt be like it is today. God is my God and will always b my God. Praise God for giving me Life. Amen

    • Dave

      Becky, not to be mean, but I do not believe you ever attended school. You obviously are a victim of child abuse. Please don’t have any children of your own.

    • Atheist Kid

      Take over? You are clearly the one bitch forcing your beliefs on these kids and “taking over”. There are Muslims, Atheists, and many different beliefs in the student population. I am glad that at my school we don’t have to deal with this bullshit.

  • ProudAtheist

    God does not belong in our schools.Most theist say If people don’t have religion, they would rape, murder, and steal at every opportunity they get. If morality truly came from god you would have to kill people who violated the Sabbath and had adultery – it doesn’t and you don’t. The reason prayer was taken out of schools is because Prayer in public schools is government sponsoring of religion which is not allowed. I am a proud atheist. Atheism has inspired democracy, medical, scientific and technological progress, You can have your faith but i will enjoy my atheism.

  • Jean

    God bless you Becky, KEEP the FAITH. :) I am proud of you for speaking the truth. I also agree with Superintendent Howard 100 %. He is correct in his reasoning. The Bible is true no matter how others may be led astray. If Jesus were to be saturated in every fiber of our schools, it would make a profound difference in this country for the positive. It wouldnt cure all, but it would make a difference in the positive.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004571885806 John Jones

      was a time in history when Jesus was “saturated” in not only ever fiber of the
      schools, but the government and the entire society. It was called the Dark
      Ages. For almost 1,000 years people lived in poverty, ignorance, fear, and superstition.
      Christians had crusades, inquisitions, with hunts, heretic burnings, suppression
      of science, astrology instead of astronomy, alchemy instead of chemistry, and exorcisms
      instead of medicine. They thought that the world was flat, that women were
      property, that slavery was proper, and that the world was only 6,000 years old
      because their religious leaders told them so and it was the word of God as
      found in the Bible. Maybe that is why so many people are against the mixing of
      religion with government. They both become corrupt and evil.

  • susan

    i bELEIVE wHAT THE BIBLE SAYS!! Jesus always wins his battles!! His Picture will remain up!! Just saying!! God bless!! Jesus Loves you ,Me and everybody!! will be praying for this situation.

    • Tom in Raleigh

      Actually, Jesus has mostly lost these battles (in regards to religious symbols or writings in public schools)

      • micks

        No!! Im Sorry But My Jesus alwys wins his battles and he always wins a fight at the end!! Read the bible he won over Saten and always will!! His not dead his alive!! Jesus loves u !!! God bless!!

        • Tom in Raleigh

          Actually…yes. In cases like this, Jesus mostly loses. I cant speak towards his won lost record against Satan.

          Glad that he loves me…but his portrait will be removed.

        • ProudAtheist

          so you are a 100% sure Jesus wins his battles. I have read that great book of fiction called “the Bible” and it made me laugh. Which version there are so many..lmao

          • Becky

            Yes Jesus wins his battles. Do you no what heaven and hell is ? Sounds like by your posting satin has you. That means burning .

          • Tom in Raleigh

            Satin? Like the fabric? It is very smooth.

          • Tom in Raleigh

            and once again Becky…Jesus loses these battles. The picture will come down. Hopefully the school simply removes it before they waste the money that should be going to students on a court case they cannot win.

          • Becky

            I am 100% percent Jesus wins. Well I dont perfese to understand the Bible but I do beleive and no it is Gods word. I cant understand people like you not beleng in God. No one has answered my question. Who created you? God did he created Heaven and Earth. I just hate you are going to have a lot of repentetto do at your death and you say satin is like fabric you will no what the real satin feels like burning and burning. then you wont be lmao .

          • Tom in Raleigh

            Did you mean that I will KNOW what the real satAn feels like? How am I supped to take anything that say seriously when you can’t spell? “repentetto”? Is that Italian?

            You are 100% sure Jesus wins…yet you have not provided a single example where Jesus has won one of these cases. Probably because he does not.

  • Becky

    Dave I dont want to be mean but I have to speak for my God. Yes I went to school and they were pray everyday at our school and for the children at sport activites. And no I am not a victim of child abuse I have a clean recored with the law. I have 2 beatiful children and 6 grandchildren and they all have been taught about god. If There wasnt a God then How did you get life. God was the one that died on the cross hanging with nails in his hands and feet with the blood dripping . He died for you me and ever human being on this earth so why should I not praise our god. If they were pray and pledge alliangce in schools today all of the shooting drugs and gang may not exsist. The problen with the world now days is they have taken God out. He needs to be back in school work home and everywhere. I will continue to teach my children and grandchildren the right way and God is the first priorty. You all can beleive the wa you want but I will praise my god!

    • Tom in Raleigh

      Becky, prayer in schools would not have stopped terror shootings.

  • Angie

    Why are Christians are being forced to follow practicing Athiest views. We have our own agenda. Why are Athiest forcing their Athiestic pracitces on us?? This is the big question.

    • Tom in Raleigh

      There are no practices or views being forced on Christians. That is the big answer.

      • http://www.facebook.com/yikesdangit Jackie Perry

        People think that a picture forces something on them. Man what about pictures and sayings on shirts? What about the slutty way people dress, does this make everyone dress this way?

        • Tom in Raleigh

          There are no legal precedents about the government and risqué dress to my knowledge. There are many legal precedents abou the government and religion.

          Your analogy is off as you are using individual clothing and a government sponsored picture of Jesus.

          • TheDudeofDudes

            The big question all of the christians are not asking themselves here is; what if it were a painting of buddha, krishna, or a gay jesus? Would you be so tolerant of it then? And this is what most atheists are trying to say on these kinds of subjects. Religion is ultimately unprovable, and therefore has no place in schools, but in your homes and churches. Christians need to pull thier heads out of their bibles and realize how this same type of situation will feel if Islam continues at its rate of spread and you are trying to argue against one of their paintings in your kid’s hallways.(this is meant metaphorically, not in any sense of hate, but Islam is spreading like crazy) This is where most religions have no scope or what the other side of the fence is like, christian, hindu, muslim, ect. You are all the same people, spreading the same nonsense, but you just so happen to be born in a different place that had indoctronated you with a different book of nonsense at an early age, or when you were desperate for some sort of savior.

            By the way, to all of you who say that we need prayer in school; SEND YOUR KIDS TO CHRISTIAN SCHOOL! So we don’t have to keep hearing this crap. Sure, you’ll isolate your kids into a much more narrow world view, and they will have a hard time fitting in or getting a date outside of a narrow band of other weird kids, but hey we won’t have to keep hearing about it. Seriously though, don’t put your kids through that, they already have to listen to you until they are 18, and that’s going to mess them up enough.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Walter-Beals/840350362 Walter Beals

      What are atheistic practices? When I look in my dictionary, it just says atheism is the lack of belief in god(s).

  • Mike

    This whole controversy is incredibly ridiculous. That picture hanging in the school isn’t Jesus any more than it’s Jake Gyllenhaal. In fact, it even looks like Jake Gyllenhaal. Atheists ought to forget about the courts and just make a mockery of it by forming a Jake club that worships the picture and exercising their own 1st amendment rights by putting a sign that says “Jake” under the so-called Jesus pic. It’s a long shot, but maybe some Christians will be convicted of the sin and stupidity of having a graven image of Jesus and will take the thing down on their own.

  • soldierofChrist

    Glad they kept it. Separation of Church and state is misrepresented. Where have the schools gone today? Or society for that matter, that people are actually arguing over removing God. As Jesus said “How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen – but how terrible for the one who causes them!” (Matthew 18:7)

  • Picard

    What the ACLU and Freedom from Religion fail to understand is that our First Amendment allows from the freedom of religion and prevents the government from creating a state run religion. This is not a violation of that amendment. What we are creating today is an environment that is hostile to anyone who believes in a religion, that somehow it is wrong and it is causing the evils of society. What cases the evils of society is hate, and the is all I get from atheists. Hate for my beliefs, hate because I believe in God, and hate for the reasons why I believe. This nation was founded on the basis of freedom for all, and that included of worship. This anti-religion fervor, seems quite similar to, at least to me, to anti-semtic fervor that permeated much of Europe’s history. This about it.


    Why atheists always get offended by CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS not the other way around.It is a conspiracy against CHRISTIANITY even though America was built on Christian Values. Imagine America without these Christian Values which is the source of The Democracy.I hope these ATHEISTS think of America with MUSLIM VALUES!

  • ShenelRN

    As a child, in school, I believe that this picture should not be up. it’s irrelevant and unnecessary. people are saying that atheists are pushing their views on them but it’s really the complete opposite. this picture in a PUBLIC school is like forcing kids to accept Christianity even though many different cultures could be there. I know if that picture was to be put up in my school, there would be a riot.

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