The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Seeing Jesus vs. Not Seeing Jesus

Jesus may be currently appearing on a burrito in Sacramento, but he won’t be making any more appearances at Bridgeport High School in West Virginia, thanks to a recently approved settlement in lawsuit involving the a portrait of Jesus that had long been displayed on the wall outside of the principal’s office.

For years, Harold Sklar had been telling the Harrison County school board that it had no defensible position for having a portrait of Jesus hanging in the halls of Bridgeport High School.

When Sklar, an attorney, filed a lawsuit in June to have it removed, school board attorney Richard Yurko told the board the same thing.

On Friday, the board finally showed it was listening.

That’s when Harrison County school board members voted 4-1 to approve a settlement that provides it will never hang or display any item with religious content in the school.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Richard Katskee, the legal director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “It puts the focus back on the children and not on the religious divisions, and so the plaintiffs are very pleased.

Ed Brayton says a judge put the stamp of approval on the settlement. So the battle over seeing vs. not seeing Jesus on the high school wall is over. Right? Well, sorta. Maybe.

There seem to be a couple of different ways to parse the decision, but I’ll leave that to better legal minds than mine. The reason this is of interest to me is because I posted about it earlier, when the stories of the Dobrich and Smalkowski families were making headlines and Barak Obama was admonishing Democrats and liberals to be more “faith-friendly” and not so quick to man the battle stations at “every mention of God.”

And now it looks like I may have to swallow Obama as the next Democratic nominee. After all, a party seeing to reach out to evangelicals would do worse than to take a look at Obama, who will have at least as much governing experience by 2008 as Dubya did in 2000, especially at a time when evangelicals are lamenting the hijacking of their movement by politics and maybe even abandoning the Republicans. And the Democrats are already staking out the middle to win over these voters on “bread and butter” Democratic issues. (Maybe this could be their playbook?)

So it seems like a good time to ask some questions. Should a portrait of Jesus hang in a public school? Why? What message does it send or should it send to religious minority students and their families? How about non-religious students and their families? Should a non-religious or religious minority student still expect to be dealt with fairly if she/he has to walk past a portrait of Jesus to go into the principals office? (As a gay man, for that matter, should I expect to be treated fairly in the courthouse if I have to walk past a monument to the ten commandments in order to get in?)

Does freedom of religion also imply freedom from religion? Or is a certain amount of deference due to the majority faith? If so, why? Does the religious majority have a right to see Jesus on the high school wall? Does the minority have the right not to see Jesus on the high school wall? Which trumps which?

And finally, do they just need more burritos?


  1. “Obama, who will have at least as much governing experience by 2008 as Dubya did in 2000…”

    Not to defend GWB, but let’s acknowledge that he was the governor of a ginormous state. Obama is an opposition party back-bencher in a do-nothing Senate.

    Remember this famous quote?

    “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”

    I’m sure you remember the response.


  2. That’s why there is home-schooling and religious private schools. So, if it is so important to you that your children see a portrait of Jesus on the wall, you can opt out of the public school system. No reason why my tax dollars should pay for you to harass my children with religious propaganda in school. And no reason why you shouldn’t be willing to make a private sacrifice to ensure that your children are taught as you wish to have them taught. Otherwise, you’re just a deadbeat parent.

  3. 28 October 2006
    10:04 am

    Peace, Terence!

    The First Amendment is violated by any such expression in the manner described or in any public setting, other than use in teaching the miseducation of the ages that the person of Jesus resembled a blond, northern Italian, etc. I strictly defend the separation of State and Faith/Religion/Spirituality/
    Church/Mosque/Synagogue/Temple, etc.

    If you please, I’d like to share my own take on SGL
    marriages and historical homophobic attitudes elevated
    to affirmations that are truly anathema to the gospel
    of LOVE, as lived, preached and represented by Jesus.
    You may contact me for a copy:[ ].

    My own pro bono peace and justice ministry, “One World
    Life Systems,” is without a parish, pulpit, ‘plate,’
    paycheck or political party: “Serving One God and Developing One World for the Common Good of Humanity.”
    For me, God IS Love = ONE LOVE, no matter what one may
    affirm as one’s own personal and or public profession of belief and or faith.

    With peace, prayer & LOVE,
    Steadfast in the Spirit,

    Michael-Vincent Crea, Pastor & Founder
    One World Life Systems

    Emailed 28 October 2006 @ 10:17 am from my Harlem Hermitage Home: 212-427-9849, anytime!