In a follow up news report about the Jesus picture hanging in the Jackson Ohio Middle school, the School District Superintendent reportedly said he was “shocked and surprised” by the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). This was even after they got a letter from the FFRF, last month, warning that a lawsuit would be filed if the picture wasn’t removed. That wasn’t the only silly thing in the reporting about the lawsuit.
The Columbus Ohio TV station, WBNS, had a report in the evening after the ACLU and FFRF filed their lawsuit. In the report (see video below) it reported that Superintendent Phil Howard was “shocked and surprised” by the lawsuit. WBNS also reported that the school district had finished an investigation of the issue and planned on reviewing the report at the next school board meeting.
That is odd since just last month at its meeting the board decided to keep the picture up basically inviting a lawsuit and yet the Superintendent is shocked a lawsuit was filed?? And what is this investigation he talked about?
From the Columbus Dispatch:
The Jackson Board of Education decided last month that it would not remove the picture, attracting cheers from a crowd of more than 300 people who largely defended the continuing display of the depiction of Jesus.
Superintendent Phil Howard said in a statement that he was “shocked and surprised” by the lawsuit. The district has been working with lawyers from the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group that defends religious freedom, to investigate the legality of the painting.
The Liberty Institute report is nearly complete and will be discussed by the school board on Tuesday to determine “an appropriate course of action,” Howard said.
Liberty Institute? That sounds familiar…
The Liberty Institute is a conservative Christian advocacy and legal defense organization founded in 1972 under the name Free Market Foundation. Liberty Institute has since shifted focus to providing pro bono legal assistance to Christian people and organizations that they believe are suffering religious persecution in the United States, such as students, veterans, and pastors whose religious free exercise rights they believe are being violated.
Liberty Institute’s “Don’t Tear Me Down” campaign works to bring awareness to Establishment Clause challenges against veterans memorials with Christian symbolism. They were unsuccessful in defending the Mt. Soledad Cross near San Diego, California when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 2012, allowing a prior 9th Circuit Court ruling to stand. Liberty Institute filed an Amicus curiae in the case of the Mojave Memorial Cross in California which was ultimately settled in their favor in April 2012.
There you go. The school district is having a conservative legal group, which defends violations of the wall between church and state under the false label of “religious liberty”, “investigate” the picture issue. Gee, I wonder what their report will say??
Liberty Institute did issue a statement on the ACLU/FFRF lawsuit:
“This lawsuit is premature,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Director of Litigation. “We reached out to the ACLU and FFRF for dates they would be available to meet, so that we could include their input in the investigation before we made a final report and recommendation to the Board. Rather than responding to our request to meet with them, the ACLU and FFRF filed a lawsuit before they even knew what action the Board intended to take.”
“Sasser continued, “These types of issues require extensive factual investigation, which we are just now completing. The District needs to do a thorough investigation in order to ensure that its decision on this issue follows Supreme Court precedent.”
Oh that makes me feel better… no not really.
I would add that the ACLU doesn’t take cases unless it believes it has a strong case on its side and there have been several similar cases that when decided in court required the removal of the violation like the picture.