Christian Plaintiff Wins Jesus Portrait Case In Jackson, OH

The Jesus portrait has to go,
We finally agree
It’s like you told us long ago
Before we paid your fee
If we had only listened then
We might have known you’re right…
But someone hollered “atheist!”
And so we had to fight.

We didn’t think the painting
Would offend a Christian soul—
We thought it was the atheists
Exerting their control
But freedom of religion means
A Christian can complain
When schools promote religion
When they’d really best abstain.

In Jackson, where the headlines say
“The atheists have sued”
It seems the story’s incorrect—
The facts are misconstrued—
One plaintiff is a Christian girl
It chastens us to say
Who saw the Jackson painting, but
Views Christ a different way

And victory for atheists
(As all the papers say)
Is victory for her as well
The schools, of course, must pay
We’ve learned a costly lesson, here
In Jackson public schools:
Tradition might speak loudly, but…
The constitution rules

I missed it Friday, but the parties have reached a settlement in Jackson, Ohio, and the portrait of Jesus has to go. Reactions are … predictable. It’s an ACLU and FFRF “Shakedown”, with the lawyers getting some $80,000 (which they had warned the schools about) and plaintiffs getting “the paltry sum of $3,000 each” (which I predict will be framed as sufficient motive that their suit can be dismissed as money-grubbing). Of course, nearly every report labels it an “atheist lawsuit”, which is worth unpacking.

A local news channel, WSAZ, has a nice collection of the major events in the case, updated at every turn (though the video at the top is not current). But even there, there is no mention of one fact that spoils everyone’s narrative.

One of the plaintiff children is a Christian. From the FFRF complaint:

Plaintiff Same Doe 2, attends Jackson Middle School and views the portrait of Jesus every day when Plaintiff walks through the entranceway to the Middle School. Sam Doe 2 identifies as a person of Christian faith and is offended by the religious portrait hanging in Jackson Middle School because it portrays the image of Jesus in a manner that is inconsistent with said Plaintiff’s religious beliefs and expresses the Christian faith in a way that distorts Sam Doe 2’s own beliefs about morality and religion.

The promotion of one view of Christianity does not just offend non-Christians, it offends other Christians who do not share that particular view. It is trivially true that different Christian faiths disagree with one another–and this was clearly the case during the writing of the constitution, when (for instance) Catholics were viewed as a threat to local governance.

This is precisely the sort of thing the first amendment was meant to deal with, and this is precisely the outcome that could be seen from months ago.


  1. badgersdaughter says

    That’s interesting. I confess I am at a loss to imagine what Christian beliefs the student may have that require Jesus to be portrayed in a different manner, and what the manner approved by her* beliefs may be. I don’t find it difficult to imagine that she may belong to a tradition that thinks portraying Jesus at all is impermissible, but the text given seems to imply that she believes the picture in question is wrong. I could be reading too much into it.

    *The linked case identifies the student as female.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    There are three student plaintiffs; in the FFRF pdf they are not identified by sex that I could see. I’ve seen reports of two boys and one girl, but since they are taking great pains to keep them anonymous, I’m not going to poke around. I based “him” on the use of Sam, rather than Jane, Doe as the name of the plaintiff.

    Happy to be corrected, though–where did you see the identifying info?–oops, edit to say I see it right there at the top! off to make changes!

  3. says

    @badgersdaughter – There are a number of Christian traditions which hold that any representation of Jesus is inherently idolatrous. Most of these are Protestant, although some are more ancient denominations that never accepted the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, which held that the veneration of icons is distinct from the worship of idols and thus permitted.

  4. Randomfactor says

    School officials minimized having to come up with nearly $100,000 because “insurance” would cover the loss and no taxpayer money was involved.

    Until they see the premiums in coming years, of course.

  5. coragyps says

    That is one of the most Nordic Jesuses you ever will see – I wonder if Sam takes offense at that?

    Or she could be something of at art critic, I guess………

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Aw shucks – I kinda liked the idea of a plaintiff identified as “Same Doe”…

    Maybe “Sam” gets behind Corinthians 11:14 –

    … if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him…


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