Ohio School Moves Jesus Picture

Remember that lawsuit over a picture of Jesus at a school in Ohio? Well the school has now moved the picture from the middle school to the high school, apparently at the request of the Christian student group whose ancestors donated the picture to the school decades ago.

A Jesus portrait that has embroiled a southern Ohio school district in a federal lawsuit has been moved from the middle school to a high school at the preference of a Christian-based student club that the district views as the picture’s owner…

Schools Superintendent Phil Howard said he is not sure what, if any, effect moving the portrait might have on the lawsuit, but he said the district had no choice.

“We have to respect the rights of the club,” Howard said. “Failure to do so might open the district to even another lawsuit — this time by the H-Y club” — or violate the U.S Constitution by “turning the portrait into government speech.”

Officials have maintained that taking the portrait down would censor students’ private speech.

“It belongs to the club,” Howard said. “It’s student speech, not government speech.”

They’re really trying to push this “hey, it’s not our picture” argument. I say test them on it. We need to get an SSA club at that school and have them donate their own picture. Maybe Darwin? Or Christopher Hitchens? Or a Muslim club to donate a picture of Mohammad. Wait, they don’t allow pictures of Mohammad. Maybe the SSA should request that one, which would enrage both the Christians and the Muslims.

23 comments on this post.
  1. Gvlgeologist, FCD:

    Because if the picture is in HS instead of MS, that makes it legal. I wasn’t aware that the 1st amendment made such a distinction.

  2. Gregory in Seattle:

    I would love to see Michelangelo’s “Touched by His Noodly Appendage” hanging in the school’s cafeteria. A classicial work of art, food related… who could complain?

  3. azportsider:

    I’ll sign that, Gregory!

    Ramen

  4. matty1:

    @1 I think the idea is that moving it anywhere at the request of the student group ‘proves’ they and not the government own the picture and so it should be allowed as student free speech.

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!:

    “Wait, they don’t allow pictures of Mohammad. Maybe the SSA should request that one, which would enrage both the Christians and the Muslims.”

    Maybe even a cartoon of Mohammad? Perhaps one from Denmark? (Devilish grin.)

  6. d.c.wilson:

    Is this town near the Kentucky border? Maybe they can borrow Rand Paul’s Aqua Budda figure/bong.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!:

    Thirding Gregory in Seattle’s suggestion though too.

  8. redmann:

    Jesus moves in mysterious ways.

  9. matty1:

    Wait, they don’t allow pictures of Mohammad.

    That may only be true for pictures they don’t like see here for a selection of Islamic pictures of Mohammed.

  10. democommie:

    Are there any pictures of teh GAY JESUS with his posse in the “Upper Room” for that fabulous party the night before the part that far too many KKKristians seem to dote on? Hey, I’m just asking questions!

  11. julial:

    Two birds with one stone:
    Contribute a picture of Darwin and call it a picture of Mohammad.
    Or is that just trolling?

  12. abb3w:

    @1, Gvlgeologist, FCD:

    Because if the picture is in HS instead of MS, that makes it legal. I wasn’t aware that the 1st amendment made such a distinction.

    The case law alludes to such distinctions being significant; EG, Breyer’s concurrence in Van Orden v Perry saying “The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state” would appear to suggest that such care is more necessary among younger students (middle school) than older (high school). There’s also a line drawn between “primary” (K-8?) and “secondary” (high) school in other case law.

    It almost certainly helps the Jackson City Schools district’s defense, since it now involves older students, with the picture owned by a student group rather than the district, with the group actually based at the school that the picture is displayed. The “limited public forum” defense might be valid — if its true.

    Starting an SSA chapter could involve starting another (protracted) uphill fight, and might effectively breach the anonymity of the “Doe” plaintiffs. Further, it might not even include the plaintiff, who is apparently a Christian who feels the picture is inappropriate, and thus might not be comfortable joining an SSA group. The school body may have too large a fraction of Christians for an open SSA group to be viable. A more elegant solution would seem to be getting the pre-existing Chess club to petition to post a picture of Bobby Fischer (or perhaps Viswanathan Anand). It’s not a sure thing, but chess club members stereotypically tend to be bright, and thus relatively likely to have a more secular lean than most, and even inclined to raise trouble just because there’s rules saying they’re allowed to.

    If the administration says “no”, it’s immediate evidence that the claimed “limited public forum” was a sham when asserted.

  13. ahcuah:

    How about a picture of Satan from the History Channel’s Bible series? You know, the one that looks like Obama.

  14. savagemutt:

    How does this affect standing if a case is filed? Would a parent at the middle school still be able to sue once the picture was relocated to the high school? Could they just keep moving it from school to school?

  15. Gregory in Seattle:

    @savagemutt #14 – Not a lawyer, but I’m inclined to think moving it from school to school makes it worse, as it broadens the number of potential plaintiffs from just the one school to the entire district.

  16. sillose:

    contribute a bunch of pictures-jesus kissing a guy*, mohammed, and a picture of… yeah lets say darwin-captioned to be a picture of mohammad

    *i would say sucking his cock, but then they could remove it because we all obviously know that sex is eeevil, regardless of religion.

  17. thebookofdave:

    Dammit, ahcuah, you beat me to it! Anyway, an Islamic student group wishing their own display in the school needn’t settle for anything as offensive to them as a portrait of Muhammed. A simple star and crescent ought to be tasteful enough for everyone, right?

  18. John Pieret:

    Savagemutt @ 14

    How does this affect standing if a case is filed? Would a parent at the middle school still be able to sue once the picture was relocated to the high school? Could they just keep moving it from school to school?

    Generally speaking, defendants in civil rights actions cannot short-circuit the judicial process and render a case moot simply by announcing that they will no longer do what the plaintiffs complained of and freeing themselves to resume the conduct once the case is dismissed. The test of whether subsequent circumstances have rendered a case moot is said to be a “stringent” one. It must be absolutely clear that the wrongful action could not reasonably be expected to recur.

    It is well settled that a defendant’s voluntary cessation of a challenged practice does not deprive a federal court of its power to determine the legality of the practice. Such abandonment is an important factor bearing on the question whether a court should exercise its power to enjoin the defendant from renewing the practice, but that is a matter relating to the exercise rather than the existence of judicial power.

    City of Mesquite v. Aladdin’s Castle, Inc., 455 U.S. 283 (1982)

  19. randytoad:

    Since Jesus is a prophet to Muslims, they should object to depictions of Jesus as well as Mohammed. The analog of a pic of JC for a muslim would be a verse from the Quran written in decorative Arabic script.

  20. Ichthyic:

    so… lawsuit part II?

  21. savagemutt:

    @John Pieret

    Thanks for the info.

  22. abb3w:

    @14, savagemutt:

    How does this affect standing if a case is filed? Would a parent at the middle school still be able to sue once the picture was relocated to the high school? Could they just keep moving it from school to school?

    @18, John Pieret:

    Generally speaking, defendants in civil rights actions cannot short-circuit the judicial process and render a case moot simply by announcing that they will no longer do what the plaintiffs complained of and freeing themselves to resume the conduct once the case is dismissed. The test of whether subsequent circumstances have rendered a case moot is said to be a “stringent” one. It must be absolutely clear that the wrongful action could not reasonably be expected to recur.

    There’s also the problem that there’s apparently only one high school in the district, and that thus there’s reasonable presumption that the middle school student plaintiff will shortly be a student at the high school. The defendants could try for a temporary dismissal of the case on ripeness grounds, but I(AmNotALawyer) think the picture having been at the Middle School would give initial concrete injury.

  23. ret:

    how about instead of hanging the actual picture we just make a gallery of the various modern “signs” of jesus in various things such as toast and birdshit. this would work since no one knows what the dude looked like( if he even existed ). this would give me something to laugh at and the christians something to awe at. or i could even laugh at them while they awe at the “signs”.

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