Jesus Permitted to Stay Put on Big Mountain, Despite Efforts From Religion-Hating Leftist Group (Video)
Posted by Gateways_Niece
Photos By Linda Thompson
Despite threats from the far left Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation Jesus will stay put on Big Mountain.
Story By Jim Mann
Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber has approved a special use permit allowing a statue of Jesus to remain on federal land on Big Mountain, but the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation intends to file a lawsuit challenging the Forest Service decision.
Weber announced Tuesday his reauthorization of the 10-year permit for the Kalispell Knights of Columbus to keep the statue on the 25-by-25 foot parcel of land where it has been since 1954.
The decision reversed a determination Weber made last August to deny the permit renewal, which touched off an enormous public response, mostly from statue supporters.
In a statement, Weber explained that “the statue is important to the community for its historical heritage based on its association with the early development of the ski area on Big Mountain.”
The statement also cited the statue’s eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a factor in the decision.
U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., praised the Forest Service for having “the courage to do the right thing” and he said the strong public response likely played a part.
In reconsidering the permit request, the Forest Service solicited public input and got 95,000 comments, most of them generated from Rehberg’s congressional website and an online letter posted by the American Center for Law and Justice, a national organization that counters groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said Wednesday that a lawsuit already was prepared and would be filed by today in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
“We were going to sue before this happened so we’ve got our complaint together and we’ll be seeing them in court,” Gaylor said, explaining that regardless of the Forest Service decision, the statue’s continued presence on federal land was unacceptable to the group.
The foundation maintains that the statue violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“We are dedicated to the constitutional principle of separation between church and state,” she said, adding that the group is currently engaged in eight lawsuits “related to keeping religion out of government.”
Statue supporters do not regard it as being illegal.
“We’re delighted that federal officials understood what we have argued all along — that this statue of Jesus does not convey any government endorsement of religion,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
“Instead, this historically important memorial is designed to commemorate the sacrifice made by those killed in World War II. We believe the more than 70,000 concerned individuals we represented in this issue played a vital role in convincing the federal government to make the correct decision to reauthorize a special use permit, which will keep the statue in place.”
The Knights of Columbus, veterans and other statue supporters maintain that it is a monument to World War II veterans, particularly members of the 10th Mountain Division who were active in the establishment of the ski area.
But that claim has been challenged by the recently formed Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association
Here is a video from late last year discussing the controversy.