Last Updated:November 27 @ 11:19 am

Lawsuit filed over Jesus statue on public land

By Matt Gouras

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The battle over a 57-year-old Jesus statue at a northwest Montana ski resort escalated Wednesday with a new federal lawsuit arguing that the Forest Service needs to remove the relic from its mountaintop perch.

The legal challenge from a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics follows a decision last week by the Forest Service to reverse an original decision to reject a new permit for the statue, which occupies a 25-by-25 foot patch of land at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Its appearance in the middle of the woods has long mystified skiers as they cruise down a popular run.

The Forest Service initially decided last fall that case law was stacked against having such a statue on public land, but officials argued in its revised decision that the historic nature of the statue allowed for its continued placement. In recent months, the agency has been flooded with nearly 100,000 comments, mostly in support of the six-foot tall statue.

The statue was originally conceived by World War II veterans who saw similar shrines while fighting in the mountains of Europe.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued in their lawsuit that the Forest Service is unconstitutionally sanctioning the Catholic statue maintained by the Knights of Columbus. The religious nature of the statue has been made clear in special-use permit applications since the 1950s, the group said.

"The continued presence of the statue of Jesus Christ, intended as a religious shrine, gives the unmistakable appearance of governmental endorsement of religion, as does the defendant's orchestrated justification for maintaining a religious monument on public land," the foundation said in its lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Missoula.

Several out-of-state social conservative and Christian groups have lined up with promises to help defend the statue in court. They have argued that the statue doesn't convey a government endorsement of religion, and have said the Forest Service made the correct decision when it decided to re-authorize a special use permit.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group that engages in legal fights over cultural issues, said it will seek to enter the case on behalf of those who believe such a statue represents the history and heritage of the region.

"It's clear this legal challenge represents the latest move in a troubling pattern designed to remove any religious reference from our history, a tactic that we believe ultimately will fail in the federal court system," ACLJ lawyer Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

The Forest Service didn't return a request for comment on Wednesday.

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  1. newsjunkyComment by newsjunky
    February 13, 2012 @ 8:37 am

    “The legal challenge from a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics…”

    I am seriously beginning to believe that these so-called “atheists and agnostics” are actually members of a progressive group trying to wipe out the influence of Christianity across this country.   It doesn’t make any sense to me that we as Christians can fight tooth and nail for our rights and yet make little or no headway at all — while these anti-Christian groups have just about eliminated God from this country.  

    I’m not one for conspiracy theories but there comes a time when these theories do come in play, and I’m beginning to believe that time is NOW.  With the government in the process of wiping out the doctrines of the Catholic faith and the religion of Islam being totally untouched, I have my doubts as to the authenticity of these atheists groups. 

    Surely atheists do exist, as we are surrounded by them, however, to attack everything that represents Christ and Christianity in general is as far as I’m concerned — a progressive movement like the Arab Spring and other revolutionary groups that the government has instigated.  If this were nothing but pure hatred for religion in general — why not attack the Muslims, or the multitude of pagan religions that have been allowed to flourish in this country?  The reality is that it’s only Christianity and that does arouse my suspicions as to this being a concerted effort on the part of this administration.

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    • onewildmanComment by onewildman
      February 13, 2012 @ 9:28 am

        I’m on the same page as you, newsjunky. I know a few real atheist and they say anyone who complains is not an atheist they are haters. They tell me they see no difference in a religious symbol and Micky Mouse. They say they don’t believe in god. I was also ask well if they take this statue down then they need to remove every statue of Greek and Roman Gods in parks and public Museums and lets not forget the Buddha statues at the Arboretums. 
       The government is no more pushing Christianity than they are pushing the Greek God’s, Roman God’s or Buddha. Why aren’t the atheist and agnostics complaining about these? Simply because they hate. They have no concept of live and let live. I hope Carma comes back to bite them where the sun don’t shine.
      Why is it Christians tolerate everybody and no one seemingly has to tolerate Christianity? What did Christians do to these haters. What are they afraid of? Could it be they are worried that they are wrong and they don’t want to be alone in hell?
      IMPEACH OBAMA NOW! ! ! ! ! !

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    • cxComment by genesal
      February 13, 2012 @ 10:06 am

      If they were ‘just’ atheists then why would they care what God’s followers do.  It would be neutral to them.  No, these are followers of Satan and how could you believe in Satan and not believe in Christ.  Trick is to use the 1st Amendment as it was written and “Tear Down This Wall” the false wall of Separation of Church and State.  Putting up the 10 Commandments or a religious statue or a cross does not a RELIGION make!
      And that’s all the 1st Amendment prohibits, establishment of A RELIGION.  Fight back SAINTS.

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    • dc3533Comment by dc3533
      February 13, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

      The atheists who are suing have never seen this statue. They are progressives who work for Global government.  Their job is to actively seek out ways to diminish Christianity, because Christians will not be a part of the New World Order under the UN Agenda 21.
      There are other non-profit groups (of lawyers) who sue for protection of “endangered” species. This hurts local economies and private property.  They collect inflated legal fees from the govt (like $615 an hour) and never actually have to go to court.
      Then, there are real estate groups that call themselves by some environmental name. They get donations of property or buy property with donated funds.  Then they sell the land to the federal govt.  Just another leftist scam that makes big money. 

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  2. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    February 13, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    its gonna come to war,people get ready for it.

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  3. Comment by Jane York
    February 13, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    In the first place there should be no public lands!

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    • Texas GuyComment by TexasGuy
      February 13, 2012 @ 9:40 am

      That’s unrealistic, impractical and impossible to achieve.  The better option is a reasonable accomodation of everyone’s beliefs.  For example, build a separate ski run for the atheists so they don’t have to see the statue.  So it leads them over a high cliff…well, that’s karma.

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  4. trashmanComment by trashman
    February 13, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    In the Constitution itself, the only mention that I find about religion is that ”no religios test shall ever be applied as a qualification to any office or public trust.” The first sentence of the First Amandment says that congress shall make no law respecting the estaablishment of religion, or prohibitting the free exercise thereol…………” How is the removal of this statue not prohibitting the free exercise thereof? I think that it is about control and divide and conquer as I mentioned in an earlier post.

    And to Texas guy, I will bet that a lot of those atheists suddenly get religious as they go over that cliff!  

    Remember this: 2012 Time to take out the Trash 

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    • onewildmanComment by onewildman
      February 13, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

       Don’t forget that there are 38,000 denominations of Christianity. So how is the statue establishing a religion? If it did which christian religion are we establishing. Remember the people from England were escaping the Church of England. A Christian religion. Came to America to worship there own form of christian religion.
      IMPEACH OBAMA NOW! ! ! !

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  5. freedomfighterComment by freedomfighter
    February 14, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    If they believe is Satan, then they have to believe in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. When they draw their last breath’s, they will then understand, and say Ohhhh God. But that same God which they have denied, will then deny them, unless they make peace and settle it with Jesus Christ, by seeking his acceptance and forgiveness, with a true Heart.
    Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out, while there is yet time.

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  6. louis31Comment by louis31
    October 8, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

    Atheism is the most bigoted and intolerant of any of the religions. Yes religion. They go around prosteletizing the non-existance of any god or creator with the missionary zeal of pure fanatacism. Our nation is based on TOLERANCE. I do not believe in your religion but I respect your right to have a different belief as long as you do not deny anyone else the right to their beliefs. If the Catholics built a statue and had the right permits, more power to them. If Islamists or Hindus or Jews decided to put up symbols of their own right next to it, that’s all right too. DIVERSITY folks. However the atheists continue to sue people for having religious symbols visible, even if it is on private property. It annoys them to see religious symbols or to hear the name God or Allah or Yaweh or Vishnu mentioned anywhere within their earshot. Get hep atheists! Freedom of speech. If you curtail the rights of religious people to free discussion, one day the same argument will be used to curtail yours! It may be annoying for you to hear religious people mention their deities but the Constitution guarantees freedom to worship (or not) as we please and it guarantees freedom of speech. It does not guarantee freedom from annoyance. Perhaps the problem is this. The atheists cannot build a statue. How can you make a statue of nothing?

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