The American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation are asking a federal judge to make Jackson Middle School take down its portrait of Jesus. Their lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, Thursday, on the behalf of a student and the child's parents, following earlier complaints by both groups to Jackson City Schools.
According to the ACLU, the student self-identifies as a Christian but feels the portrait portrays the Christian faith in a way that distorts his/her beliefs. The parents claim it interferes with the way they've taught their children about morality and religion by promoting one belief system above all others.
Last month, Superintendent Phil Howard said that the portrait would not be removed unless the action was ordered by the school board or judge. He believes it is permissible since it was provided by a student group, the Hi-Y Club, in 1947.
The ACLU of Ohio disagrees, calling the portrait "an unconstitutional endorsement of religion," and claiming many other schools have been ordered by the judicial system to remove similar displays.
"Separation of church and state is a bedrock constitutional principle and one of our nation's oldest traditions," said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman.
"The fact that this portrait has been on display for many years does not change the fact that the school system is violating the Constitution by inserting themselves in matters of religion," he said.