When a Louisiana school board stopped publication of a high school’s newspaper over a front-page photo with the word “Jesus” in it, the student journalists had a brilliant solution.
In a fitting tribute to the moral education many public schools now provide, they left the page completely blank.
The Bossier Parish School District pulled the photo from the front page of the Askalada just hours before the Airline High newspaper was to go to print last week, reported KSLA News 12.
The forbidden picture? A Christmas tree ornament decorated with the words “I love Jesus.”
Randy Brown, publisher of the Bossier Press Tribune, which prints the student paper, got the call last week: Hold the presses and spike the photo on page one.
When word came to replace the photo, Brown recalled, students decided to keep Page 1 blank. “I love what they did,” he said. “I even put it in my column, ‘Hooray, good for you.’
“Now I think it’s neat, number one, that they’re taking that stand, that it means so much to them to take that stand.”
Brown said he doesn’t blame the School District, given recent legal and media static about anything with the appearance of endorsing religion.
The School District’s statement about the Airline High newspaper said as much:
“Counsel advised that an alternate photograph be used. The decision to run a blank cover page was not that of the school or the School District.”
Atheist author and national advocate Hemant Mehta backed the decision and said it is not censorship. “The issue is not that a student was expressing his or her Christian beliefs,” he said. “The question is, is the public school promoting Christianity?”
A similar response came from the group that settled with the School District.
Richard B. Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote:
“We appreciate that school officials correctly recognized that a school-sponsored newspaper promoting Christianity to a diverse student body would make non-Christian students feel unwelcome in their own school.”
KSLA News 12 asked locals at a diner near Airline High what they thought, and everyone said the same thing: They supported using the “I Love Jesus” photo and the blank front page for the December issue of Airline High’s student newspaper.