Monday, July 17, 2006


Past Due Payment

The Harrison County West Virginia Board of Education has been sued for refusing to remove a reproduction of Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ" from its place outside the office of Bridgeport High School's principal. Apparently, the portrait has hung in the school for around 30 years.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State which, along with the ACLU, is representing the plaintiffs, has an editorial in The Charleston Gazette explaining the rationale of the suit:

A portrait of Jesus is appropriate for homes, churches or private religious schools. But Bridgeport High is none of those things. It is a place where students of all religious backgrounds (and none) should be made to feel welcome and a part of the school community. ...

Religious belief is properly fostered by parents in the home and places of worship. Moms and dads have the right and responsibility to make decisions about what religious training their children receive. When educators or politicians interfere with that parental role, they tread on unconstitutional ground.

The funny thing is that often the same people who support this kind of government intrusion into religion are firmly convinced that government is incapable of dealing correctly with such relatively unimportant (if Christ was to be believed) areas of life as economic policy, but they nonetheless gladly turn their children's souls over to local political hacks.

A vote was taken by the school board on June 6 that ended in a tie and, therefore, resulted in the portrait staying where it was. Another vote is scheduled to take place tomorrow, July 18th. As Lynn notes, if the board continues to refuse to remove the portrait, the district can become responsible for the plaintiff's legal fees, just as the Dover School District did. While a case like this, which might well be decided on summary judgment without the unusually extensive trial that took place in Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, is unlikely to approach the $1 million settled on in Dover, it can still be expensive indeed.

They may have a friend in Jesus in Harrison County, but does he have deep pockets?

Never mind the legalities; they should take it down for being tacky. Even at my most devout, it's exactly the kind of saccharine, sentimentalized depiction of Jesus I hated (and still do).
What do you suppose the people who say the picture should be left up would say if it was a picture of something associated with another religion, such as the Cresent of Islam or the Star of David?
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