Vote supports Jesus portrait
JACKSON, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio school district decided Tuesday to keep a portrait of Jesus hanging in the school where it's been 65 years, denying a federal lawsuit's claim the portrait's display unconstitutionally promotes religion in a public school.
The Jackson City Schools board offered a constitutional justification of its own in voting 4-0 to keep the portrait up in its middle school, saying it must protect students' free speech rights. The vote drew cheers and applause from the dozens of people gathered in the school gymnasium.
After huddling with attorneys in closed session for more than an hour, the school board said the portrait belongs to the student group that put it up, the Hi-Y club.
The board said the portrait is part of a "limited public forum," and that the Jackson schools will allow other student clubs to hang portraits appropriate to their organizations.
"We're in a predicament where we have to balance things," said Superintendent Phil Howard said after the meeting. "We can't make that kind of endorsement (of religion) as a government entity. But we also can't infringe upon the rights of our student groups and our students."