ACLJ, 70,000 fight to keep Jesus statue in Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana
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December 3, 2011 Whitefish, Montana- In the midst of Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort’s snow capped mountains and white, powdery ski slopes stands a 25-foot statute of Jesus Christ. Jesus peers over the ski trails wearing a pastel colored blue robe, a symbol of hope to some cautiously battling the run for the first time. Veterans from a local Knights of Columbus erected the statue in memory of soldiers who perished during World War II. According to the Bradenton Herald, statues seen throughout Italy during the war inspired them to create a similar shrine. Fast forward sixty years and one may only assume the Knights of Columbus never foresaw a group of atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), launching a protest to have the Jesus statue removed from his rock-hewn perch. On December 1, 2011, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) defended the battle to keep the Jesus statue where it stands to the National Forest Service.
Chief Counsel of the ACLJ Jay Sekulow released a public statement regarding the urging of the National Forest Service to keep the Jesus statue. He stated, “This memorial has been a part of the history and heritage of that region for nearly 60 years. For the federal government to succumb to the intimidation tactics of an organization with a flawed view of the Constitution is not only disturbing, but inappropriate as well.
“The law is clear: this statue does not create a constitutional crisis. The statue’s setting does not convey any government religious endorsement of religion. It is a historically important memorial designed to commemorate the sacrifice made by those killed in World War II. This issue has resonated well beyond Montana, with more than 70,000 concerned individuals signing on to our letter to the federal government urging that the lease be renewed and the statue remain in place.”
The ACLJ states that FFRF sent a letter to the National Forest Service urging them to end their long-standing lease to keep the Jesus statue located atop Big Mountain at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. The FFRF released a press announcement in October 2011, where they stated that the 58 –year old statue is a sham that excludes atheists who served in WWII.
“The Knights of Columbus and its backers claim the Jesus statue memorializes World War II veterans—specifically Catholic members at Kalispell’s St. Matthew’s parish. This is a sham designation that insults and excludes the many ‘atheists in foxholes’ and non-Christian veterans who defended our country,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement to the press.
According to the ACLJ, the National Forest Service initially agreed with the FFRF and set out to end the lease and remove the statue, however, public outcry followed. Demand to keep the Jesus statue in place is great and evidenced by the 70,000 names that support a letter Jay Sekulow sent to the National Forest Service explaining through Supreme Court decisions that the statue is not a violation of the separation of church and state.
The ACLJ state in their letter, “The statue’s history and purpose, its longevity, and its setting all support the conclusion that no reasonable observer could think that renewing the Knights of Columbus’ special use permit would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.” Sekulow points out that the statue has become a “historic part of the resort” and referred to the Jesus statue as a local landmark.
You may see a Fox news report in the video player to the left.