Judge Howard G. Munson of the federal district court in Syracuse ruled that the painting conveyed "a message of government endorsement of Christianity" and that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state. He based his decision upon a U. S. Supreme Court decision made last year which prohibited the placement of a creche on a village green in Pennsylvania.
The Schuylerville School District argued that the painting did not have any particular religious significance, but was a general depiction of "man's inhumanity to man." It was given to the school in 1965 by a 17-year-old senior.
Lawyers for the couple who brought the lawsuit, Susan and Robert Joki, argued that the painting clearly depicted Christ, and that its placement in the school implied governmental approval of the Christian religion.
Judge Munson wrote in his 22-page decision that the painting "prominently displays a figure whom the average observer would believe to be Jesus Christ at his crucifixion."
School authorities hope to hang it some place appropriate, like a church.