A tentative settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit, which challenged the display of a Jesus portrait in a southern Ohio school. U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley ordered the two sides to submit the settlement to the court within 90 days.
The settlement comes after another round of legal filings in U.S. District Court, where two parents and a student, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, had sued the Jackson school district in February.
The initial controversy over the portrait of Jesus, which had hung for decades in a southern Ohio high school, apparently didn’t end in April when the district took the portrait down. Court filings say it returned on the school lawn for a prayer meeting and was visible to those entering an art-storage area.
In an April 3 order, Marbley wrote that the school district had “agreed to remove” the portrait from the high school by April 4.
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“Defendants shall not display the portrait unless and until they receive agreement of the plaintiffs or an order of the court allowing defendants to display the portrait,” Marbley wrote.
The lawsuit said the Jesus image was an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity. The school board had argued that it belonged to the Hi-Y club, a religion-centered student group, and that the group had the right to hang it in the school.
“We’re happy to have a tentative agreement,” Nick Worner, a spokesman for the ACLU of Ohio, said. “Our primary concern is that the portrait comes down and stays down.”
John C. Albert, an attorney representing the school district, said he could not comment until the settlement is complete.