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.
The continued argument led to an enormous fee for Jackson City School District -- one that seemingly could have been avoided.
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.