The U.S. Forest Service has announced that a statue of Jesus Christ that has graced the Big Mountain ski hill in northwestern Montana’s Flathead National Forest for nearly 60 years can stay there for at least 10 more years, thwarting efforts by the secular Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to have it removed.
The Catholic-themed statue, which was erected in 1955 as a World War II memorial by a group of returning veterans, has been maintained over the years by a local Knights of Columbus post, and has been a popular stop-off for skiers visiting the Whitefish Mountain Resort. But in May 2011 the FFRF complained to the Forest Service, insisting that the monument violated the supposed constitutional separation of church and state.
In a letter to Forest Service officials, FFRF attorney Stephanie Schmitt warned: “It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government cannot in any way promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion.... The statue of Jesus Christ cannot legally remain in Flathead National Forest.”
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