Jesus Statue Can Stay On Ski Resort Mountain, Court Rules; Judge Deems it a Place For Photo Opportunities and High-Fives, Instead of 'Religious Reflection'

By Katherine Diaz, Crossmap On June 26, 2013

http://aclj.org/

A Jesus statue can remain at a Montana ski resort,  federal court district ruled on Tuesday, despite allegations that the statue is a violation of the establishment clause. 

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said the Flathead National Forest can renew a 10-year permit for the Jesus statue, which was donated by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's organization, as a memorial for war veterans. 

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics, sued the Forest Service arguing that the Jesus statue violated the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from making a law that establishes a religion.

The FFRF first contacted the Service in 2011 about the statue leading to the decision of renewing the permit of the statue, but due to public outcry, receiving 95,000 comments in less than two months, the Service reversed this decision in 2012. But soon enough the FFRF sued in early 2012. 

Despite the FFRF's determination to remove the statue, Christensen states that the statue has clear secular uses rather than serving religious needs. 

"The statue's secular and irreverent uses far outweigh the few religious uses it has served. The statue is most frequently used as a meeting point for skiers or hikers and a site for photo opportunities, rather than a solemn place for religious reflection," the Montana judge wrote.

"Typical observers of the statue are more interested in giving it a high five or adorning it in ski gear than sitting before it in prayer."

With six decades on the hill, the six-foot-tall statue has said to play a historical impact on the tourist hotspot. Christendom even said that it's one of the last remaining remnants of the original Big Mountain Ski Resort. The longevity of the Jesus statue even supports the court's ruling of allowing the statue to remain on the ski hill. 

Under a previous Supreme Court decision it says, "longevity demonstrates that 'few individuals, whatever their system of beliefs, are likely to have understood the monument as amounting, in any significantly detrimental way, to a government effort to favor a particular religious sect.'"

The FFRF says it will most likely appeal the court's decision.