Search  |  Login  |  Register

1328638870000

(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), representing more than 70,000 concerned individuals, said today's decision by the federal government to renew a lease that keeps in place a World War II memorial on a Montana mountain - a statue of Jesus - is a "significant victory" and represents a sound defeat for an atheist organization that challenged the memorial.

"This decision by the National Forest Service represents a significant victory in defense of the history and heritage of the region," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "We're delighted that federal officials understood what we have argued all along - that this statue of Jesus does not convey any government religious endorsement of religion. Instead, this historically important memorial is designed to commemorate the sacrifice made by those killed in World War II. We believe the more than 70,000 concerned individuals we represented in this issue played a vital role in convincing the federal government to make the correct decision, to reauthorize a special use permit, which will keep the statue in place."

The statue of Jesus was put in place on Big Mountain at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana in the 1950's by WW II veterans who were also members of the Knights of Columbus. The veterans were inspired by monuments they saw in the mountains of Europe during the war. The statue of Jesus, they said, was put in place to commemorate the service of local WW II veterans - a war memorial.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) - an atheist group that has challenged the National Motto, the National Day of Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance - challenged the display. The group called the Montana memorial "a ruse and a sham" and demanded the National Forest Service  end a long-standing lease - a move that would force the display to be removed. The government initially agreed with FFRF to end the lease. But a massive public outcry ensued, and the government put that decision on hold - reopening the issue to public comment.

In a statement issued today, the National Forest Service says it has agreed to keep the statue in place, renew the special use permit for ten years, and acknowledged that this statue represents an important part of the history and heritage of the region. 

"I understand the statue has been a long-standing object in the community since 1955, and I recognize that the statue is important to the community for its historical heritage based on its association with the early development of the ski area on Big Mountain," said Chip Weber, Flathead National Forest Supervisor. He noted that the statue's historic value and eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places is in part directly linked to the current physical location of the statue. He also acknowledged the National Forest Service received approximately 95,000 comments about the memorial.

In a letter sent to the federal government, representing more than 70,000 concerned individuals, the ACLJ urged the Forest Service to renew the lease saying the display is an important historical memorial.

"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," the letter contended.

Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice is based in Washington, D.C.

Victory: Ground Zero Cross

By Jay Sekulow1406561623000

In a decision that represents a ringing affirmation of the presence of faith in the life of our nation, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the American Atheists’ challenge to including the famed “Ground Zero Cross” in the National September 11 Museum. While the entire opinion is worth...

read more

Claims Against the Ground Zero Cross

By Matthew Clark1404744954000

From day one, angry atheists have made outlandish claims about the Ground Zero Cross – the two intersecting steel beams in the shape of a cross that was found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center following 9/11. Not only have they made these absurd claims in public (calling it “ offensive and...

read more

This Memorial Day, Honor our Heroes

By Jay Sekulow1400870024000

The men and women of our armed forces deserve our gratitude. They have fought, sacrificed, and died for the freedoms we hold dear. At the ACLJ, we spend every day fighting to defend our First Freedoms, our freedom of speech and of religion. Yet this work wouldn’t even be possible if it were not for...

read more

Challenge to “Under God” in the Pledge

By CeCe Heil1399997460000

In the latest chapter of a seemingly never ending battle over the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected a challenge to the daily voluntary recitation of the Pledge in Massachusetts schools. The ACLJ filed an amicus brief...

read more