A portrait of Jesus hanging in Royster Middle School in Chanute, Kan., was removed Aug. 20 in response to Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel's letter to Chanute Public Schools. The reproduction of Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ" had been displayed in the school at least as far back as 1966.
Superintendent Richard Proffitt, in his first year in Chanute, told the Wichita Eagle that the image came down on advice of district legal counsel. "We were notified [by FFRF] and we responded to stay in compliance," Proffitt said.
A similar copy of the painting in a middle school was involved in an FFRF and ACLU of Ohio lawsuit against Jackson City School District in Jackson, Ohio, in 2013. The school settled the suit, agreeing to permanently remove the portrait of Jesus and pay $95,000, including attorney's fees. Seidel's letter to the Chanute district stressed the settlement.
"It is illegal for Royster Middle School or any other Chanute public school to post religious images in its hallways, or anywhere else that appears to be school-sponsored. If this picture of Jesus is displayed, as we are told, the District must remove it at once."
Proffitt said the portrait is being stored in a secure location "where it's not visible."
Ryan Jayne, FFRF legal clerk, noted it's the second time the Foundation has worked with Proffitt to resolve a complaint. The earlier case involved Gideon bible distribution in Saline in 2014.
"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," Jayne told the Eagle.