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Jesus Portrait Removed From Ohio School

Updated: Wednesday, April 3 2013, 08:18 PM EDT
UPDATE (AP) -- 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 a federal lawsuit.
  
The
superintendent of Jackson City Schools tells The Associated Press that
the decision was made after the district's insurance company declined to
cover litigation expenses. He says a student club that the school says
owns the portrait took it down Wednesday morning at his direction.
  
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.
  
An ACLU spokesman says the lawsuit remains in effect, but will be dropped if the portrait stays down.

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COLUMBUS -- A Jesus portrait at one Ohio school, that sparked controversy and a lawsuit, is coming down.

The Jackson City School District agreed to remove the picture from its high school after a hearing in federal court in Columbus Tuesday.

There wasn't a court order.

But Superintendent Phil Howard says it decided to have the picture taken down after its insurance coverage was denied for the legal battle.

The decision comes one day after the ACLU of Ohio and Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a temporary restraining order to have the portrait removed from the high school.

The two groups filed a lawsuit in February claiming the picture illegally promoted religion.

But a Christian-based student club, which owns the portrait, said it represents private speech.

Howard released this statement: "Our insurance company denied coverage and we can't risk taxpayer money at this time.  We are ordering the Hi-Y club to take down the portrait to avoid the court ordering us to do so."

Howard tells ABC6/FOX28 he understands the decision will prompt a lawsuit from the student group but we had little choice in the matter.

He plans to speak with his legal team Wednesday.

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Reporter: Tara MorganJesus Portrait Removed From Ohio School


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