Yesterday a federal court in Montana ruled that the “Big Mountain Jesus” statue can stay on the slopes. The statue, erected after World War II as a tribute to soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who fought in Europe and were comforted by similar statues in the Alps, was maintained on federal land under a special use permit granted the Knights of Columbus.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) challenged the permit’s renewal, claiming that a historically significant statue of Jesus maintained by a private organization on federal land violated the Establishment Clause because it offended three of their members.
To be clear, this lawsuit is par for the course for the FFRF, which consistently attempts to scrub from public land any recognition of America’s actual cultural and religious heritage in favor of a sanitized, God-free public square that has never existed in American history.
At the ACLJ we filed an amicus brief on behalf of 18 Members of Congress and nearly 100,000 Americans.
The Court quite sensibly found that “not every religious symbol” on public land violates the Establishment Clause and noted that its location on a private ski hill with a plaque showing private ownership would lead the reasonable person to believe that the government wasn’t establishing a religion.
At the same time, however, it’s unfortunate that Establishment Clause jurisprudence has so decayed that the FFRF can even make a federal case out of its own subjective offense. But that is a fight for another day.
For now, we’re grateful for the Court’s ruling and will be watching closely to see if the FFRF appeals.