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It may not have this been this exact painting.


A Kansas middle school has removed a painting of Jesus from a hallway where it had hung for several decades, throwing the entire town into a tizzy that may, if it does not abate soon, blossom into a full-on kerfuffle. The painting, at Royster Middle School in Chanute, was removed after the school district received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation; the district's lawyer, who apparently knows a thing or two about law, advised Superintendent Richard Proffitt that the painting was in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. Smart lawyer! That definitely beats going to the local priest for your advice on public religious displays.

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Even so, the loss of the beloved print of a 1941 painting by Warner Sallman, the "Head of Christ" -- which had long hung in a place of honor next to a beloved fire alarm -- is hitting folks in Chanute pretty hard. It's unknown how the town's children will ever be exposed to graven images of Jesus anymore, considering that Chanute only has 30 churches to serve a population of 9200.

Those bright red halls must soothe the children so

Erika Semey, who went to Royster Middle School 10 years ago, told the Wichita Eagle that she's simply devastated:

“Oh man, it’s getting bad,” Semey said. “That’s what’s wrong with this world. Not enough people have Christ in their lives.”

If only the town's 30 churches could somehow do something about that. Like maybe ignoring the Constitution and fighting to keep the painting on display, a strategy that didn't work out so well for another school district a few years back, according to the FFRF:

The exact same painting was at issue when FFRF and the ACLU of Ohio filed a 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 [...]

A federal court has also held that the same portrait could not be displayed in a public school.

The FFRF contacted Mr. Proffitt after a local parent wrote to complain about the presence of the print, and Proffitt had a school employee remove the print "to a secured location," presumably to protect it from an attempted jailbreak by crazed citizens. The print, Proffitt said, had apparently been hanging in the hallway forever, although he wasn't sure exactly how long it had been on display:

“I do know it’s been decades,” he 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.”

Proffitt anticipates some unhappiness at the school's decision to defy God and comply with the Constitution of the United States, saying "Any time you have a rural community (that is) strongly faith based, it will be an issue for many patrons."

Like, for instance, former student Cody Busby, 22, who apparently never learned much about his nation's great tradition of separation of church and state when he attended Royster:

“Nobody else in the school seemed to be bothered by it,” he said. “There were only one or two evolution kids and they didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

“With all the bullying that goes on in schools and how all the kids divide up into cliques, I think Jesus being there didn’t hurt a thing.”

Wichita Eagle reporter Dion Lefler dropped the ball on the obvious follow-up question, which would be how exactly Busby thought that the Jesus painting was simultaneously a terrific influence but incapable of preventing bullying. The school's "evolution kids" were unavailable for comment, having gone on to college and gotten the hell right out of Chanute.

Local waitress Vicki Gurney, who attended Royster in the 1960s, was also upset by the mean old atheists:

Gurney said she thinks taking the picture down is unpatriotic. “This is still the United States, under God indivisible,” she said.

The real scandal here isn't that a Jesus picture was removed; rather, the scandal is that Royster Middle School has a crappy social studies curriculum that leaves people unaware of the difference between the Pledge of Allegiance and the Constitution, as well as between a church and a public school. On the upside, we hear that on the strength of that one line, Ms. Gurney has been solicited to ghostwrite for Sarah Palin.

We also learned some interesting facts about the graphics career of Warner Sallman, who was sort of the Jon McNaughton of his day, except without the goofy rightwing politics. In addition to "Head of Christ," which sold millions of prints, he also committed this interesting atrocity, "Christ Our Pilot," from 1950, in which Jesus tells Billy Batson where to sail before saying "Shazam!" and turning into Captain Marvel:

Not to be confused with the True Adventure movie 'Christ! Our Pilot!'

[RawStory / Wichita Eagle / FFRF]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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