The Jesus Christ statue overlooking the Flathead Valley and Whitefish Lake in the Whitefish Mountain Resort will maintain ground, a federal appeals court decided.
The decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came on Monday and rejected the position of the Freedom From Religion Foundation which, in 2012 filed a lawsuit arguing that as a religious figure is depicted by the statue, this monument is infringing upon the secular state and the separation of state and church.
For the past 60 years, the Whitefish Mountain Resort Jesus statue has been a landmark for visitors, tourists and locals alike. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided on Monday, August 31st that the Jesus statue may continue to stand its ground, as there is no reasonable ground to understand that it is a violation of the Constitution.
Erected here by the Knights of Columbus during the 1950s as a memorial for the fallen soldiers of World War II, the statue, measuring 6 feet in height is still a landmark for many. Over the years,
“Big Mountain Jesus has been the subject of much frivolity”,
stated Dana Christensen, U.S. District Judge, in 2013.
On Monday, as the federal appeals court gave its decision, two out of three of the members of the judge panel agreed with the statement.
Counsel Eric Baxter of Becket Fund also agreed that the decision taken on Monday best represented the situation, and that the appeals court was right to reject the complaints and requests of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
As such, the U.S. Forest Service will keep the Jesus statue where it is, albeit Judge Harry Pregerson’s statement arguing that:
“a statue of Jesus situated on a government-leased land cannot realistically be looked upon as being predominantly secular in nature”.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is a cofounder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation was disgruntled with the decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the Knights of Columbus had explicit religious reasoning when deciding to place the tall statue to oversee the Montana ski resort.
Furthermore, the Foundation wishes to take the case one step further, particularly considering that in 2011 the Flathead National Forest took the decision to end the permit for the statue on U.S. Forest Service land and not renew it for another 10 years.
At the time, there was public outcry demanding that the Jesus statue is kept in place, taking its cultural value into consideration.
Photo Credits: alancaplin.org