In the small town of Chanute, Kansas, you’ll find some of the most devout Christians across the country . Not only are this town’s residents faithful, they also share a welcoming community that fosters education and charity.
But when a foreign foundation learned that they had a 30-year-old picture of Jesus hung in their public middle school’s hallway, they slammed the public institution with a cease and desist letter.
Royster Middle School has had the picture of Jesus Christ hanging in their hallway for decades. Residents consider it a part of their culture and never gave it a second thought.
But the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation thinks otherwise. And they used their liberal money to tear Jesus out of the Kansas school.
After learning of the “offensive” picture, the FFRF sent the school’s superintendent Richard Proffitt a letter demanding that the Jesus portrait be torn down pronto or face expensive legal action.
When the school contacted a local attorney, they advised the school that they were breaking the law by displaying the portrait of Jesus in their public school.
“We were notified and we responded to stay in compliance,” Proffitt said, according to the Wichita Eagle.
The image is a print of a painting created by artists Warner Sallman, a highly regarded Christian painter.
Though everyone knows the image has adorned the school’s walls for years, it’s been there so long no one knows exactly when it first went up.
“I do know it’s been decades,” Proffitt said. “Some people who went through the system before – 30 to 40 years ago – knew it was hanging in the hallway back then. It was kind of a permanent fixture, if you will.”
The FFRF argues that since the school is a public institution, the school cannot advertise religious symbols. Just as a picture of Islam’s Mohammad wouldn’t be allowed, Jesus’s portrait was banned too.
“It’s nice to have people who appreciate the law and get things done (and) who follow the law even if it’s likely to be unpopular in the community,” Ryan Jayne of the FFRF said.
“We don’t consider any constitutional violation to be petty and not worth going after,” Jayne added.
Many locals are outraged that their Lord and Savior cannot be displayed at the public school.
“If you have the right to not participate, we have the right to keep our picture up,” former Royster Middle School student Samantha Barnhart told the Wichita Eagle. “Just don’t look at it.”
She points to the fact that non-religious students could always sit out of the pledge of allegiance or the school’s Christmas celebrations.
Jayne said that in communities where religion is a major factor, religious symbols must be removed from public institutions to protect religious minorities and atheists. In Chanute there are more than 30 Christian churches in a town of 9,000 people. Chanute is also 88% Caucasian. Minorities must be represented.
If religious symbols remain part of the public institution, minorities “are extremely likely to remain political outsiders,” Jayne said.
Do you think the FFRF was right about this portrait of Jesus? Should public school’s display Christian imagery or not?
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