Case Closed: A Decisive Victory for a War Memorial Statue of Jesus over Angry Atheists’ Attacks
We are pleased to report that the battle over the WWII Memorial Jesus statue has come to an end. It’s a significant victory against angry atheists that allows war heroes to be properly honored.
As we expected, the Ninth Circuit’s denial of review delivered a final blow to the attack. The deadline for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to appeal the Ninth Circuit’s denial came and went—with no action taken by FFRF. Having lost in Federal District and Federal Appeals Court, FFRF apparently realized they were fighting a losing battle. Although the passing of this deadline came quietly, this is a very significant victory for religious freedom after a long fought battle
As you will recall, the battle began, almost 5 years ago, when the angry atheist group known as the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that the over 60 year old WWII Memorial statue of Jesus be removed from Big Mountain in Montana. The six foot Jesus statue was originally erected in the Flathead National Forest by the Knights of Columbus to remember the service of the local veterans that bravely fought the Nazis in the Italian Alps. The statue held deep historical significance to residents and veterans in the community – reminding veterans of the statues that brought them hope and solace as they fought for freedom across Europe.
The ACLJ has been aggressively fighting FFRF on this issue from the beginning. We immediately began a petition when the U.S Forest Service gave notice that it may not renew the permit for the Memorial, followed by a letter to the Forest Service on behalf of over 70,000 concerned Americans. The U.S. Forest Service agreed with us and renewed the permit (score 1 for religious liberty). When the FFRF filed suit in Federal District Court, we filed two amicus briefs on behalf of ourselves, Members of Congress, and concerned Americans, arguing that the case should be dismissed, and that the WWII Memorial Jesus statue does not violate the Establishment Clause. Again, the federal court agreed with us that the statue is constitutional and struck down FFRF’s claims (score 2 for religious liberty).
Unsurprisingly, FFRF continued its attack to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and again we filed an amicus brief, arguing that the Ninth Circuit should uphold the district court decision. And, once again, the Ninth Circuit agreed with us and upheld the district court’s decision (score 3 for religious liberty). Obviously incensed, FFRF demanded the decision be reviewed, and just a few months ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied FFRF's appeal for a rehearing of the case, signifying the 4th time in this battle that religious liberty prevailed. This left the FFRF only one final move – appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Faced with repeated defeat, FFRF did not pursue this move.
We are extremely pleased to report that we have once again helped defeat FFRF’s meritless attacks on religious freedom. Although this battle is over, we will continue with our commitment to defend First Amendment rights whenever those rights are threatened, and we are so grateful for all the support from our members that helps us secure these victories.
It is also a critical reminder that your voice makes a tremendous impact. Over 100,000 of you took action, signing our petitions. We amplified your voice before the Forest Service and multiple federal courts through a multi-pronged legal effort – winning decisive victories at each step of the way. Continue to stand with us as we defend religious liberty and our nation’s heroes from angry atheists relentless attacks.