District worries about big legal fees amid constitutional challenge
JACKSON, Ohio (WTVN) -- A Jesus portrait that has hung in a southern Ohio school district's buildings since 1947 has been taken down, because of concerns about the costs of defending it against a federal lawsuit.
The superintendent of Jackson City Schools, Phil Howard, says the decision was made after the district's insurance company declined to cover litigation expenses.
"If we didn't take it down the court was probably going to order us to do so and along with that order could come a lot of liability against the district," Howard said.
The Hi-Y Club, a student group that the school says owns the portrait took it down at 8:10 a.m. Wednesday. Howard says it is being kept in storage by the teacher that advises the club.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued on behalf of a student and two parents, calling the portrait an unconstitutional promotion of religion in a public school.
"It confirms what we've said all along that we believe the portrait is unconstitutional," said Nick Worner, spokesman for the ACLU of Ohio.
He's happy that the district made the decision to pull the photo down. The case will remain open for now.
Howard says he's now worried the district could be sued by the Hi-Y Club for violating their 1st Amendment rights. He hasn't heard whether or not that might happen.