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home : local news : local news March 26, 2015

9/13/2013 4:02:00 PM
Jackson School District agrees to settlement in Jesus portrait lawsuit

Executive Editor

The parties have agreed to the terms of a proposed settlement agreement in the legal dispute involving a large portrait of Jesus Christ which had been on display for many years in the current Jackson Middle School building.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio last February eventually resulted in school officials voluntarily taking down the portrait and the pending settlement is not expected to change things, just finalize them.

On the recommendation of Superintendent Phil Howard, the Jackson City Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night, September 10, to approve a proposed settlement, which will resolve the lawsuit, Sam Doe I, et al, v, Jackson City School District.

Howard said he could not divulge the details of the proposed settlement until the matter was finalized in court.

The lawsuit was filed last February by The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on behalf of local unidentified plaintiffs who objected to the presence of a large, framed portrait of Jesus Christ which had been hanging in the foyer of the current Jackson Middle School building since 1947.

District officials initially asserted their rights to keep the portrait on display and countered that it was actually owned by a school organization, the Hi-Y Club.

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However, Howard voluntarily agreed to remove it when district officials learned their liability insurance carrier would not cover the costs if the district lost the lawsuit. A loss in court could have resulted in district having to pay the plaintiffs' attorney fees as well as the court costs.

"I hope the people understand that we can't take a risk with the taxpayers' money without the insurance coverage," Howard told The Telegram last April.

The district has received free legal support and representation from the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a non-profit organization which promotes and defends religious freedom. However, this would not have shielded the district from possibly having to pay other costs.

The portrait, which was moved from the middle school to a display area at the high school after the lawsuit was filed, was moved to a school storage closet after it was taken down. It's currently in the possession of Jackson High School teacher and Hi-Y Advisor Bob Eisnaugle, according to Howard.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Article comment by: Ruth Walker

It was terrible that it was hung in the middle school at all, but a horrible insult to reason to move it to the high school. Those who did that should be publicly called out.

The schools are supposed to be teaching civics and critical thinking. This one failed miserably!

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