Religious Liberty Press Release

02.05.01

ACLU Declares Victory in Defiance County Lawsuit

County Removes Religious Image from Courthouse

In just over twenty four hours after filing suit in the United States District Court in Toledo over a large picture of Jesus Christ on display in the Defiance County Courthouse, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio announced that County Commissioners have removed the picture from the courthouse. ACLU attorneys were contacted Thursday night by a lawyer for the Defiance County Commissioners who informed them that the picture was no longer on display.

The suit, filed last Wednesday, alleged that a picture showing Jesus Christ knocking at a garden gate constituted a violation of the First Amendment mandate of separation between church and state. According to lawyers for the ACLU, the display of so plainly religious an image in a public building is a textbook violation of the First Amendment.

The ACLU suit was filed on behalf of Jeffrey Weaner, a Defiance college professor who had complained about the unconstitutional nature of the picture to county commissioners on several occasions, without avail. Each time, commissioners refused to remove the picture in question. Weaner then contacted the ACLU.

ACLU Staff Counsel Jillian Davis praised the county for its swift action: “When the county refused to take action on Prof. Weaner’s numerous requests, we were forced to step in. As we’ve maintained, this was a clear-cut violation of the Establishment Clause. The County should be commended for coming to this realization quickly and avoiding the time and expense of needless litigation.”