‘Mountain Jesus’ case finally over

After four years of litigation, the “Mountain Jesus” statue at the Whitefish Mountain Resort will stay where it is.

A quick background: Back in the 1950s, the Knights of Columbus erected the statue is memory of World War II veterans. In 2012, a group of atheists and agnostics, Freedom From Religion Foundation, sued the U.S. Forest Service to remove the statue, saying it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

In August of last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Freedom From Religion Foundation. 

Earlier in the legal saga, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen had found “that the statue’s secular and irreverent uses outweighed its religious uses,” the Associated Press reported.

“Christensen wrote that ‘Big Mountain Jesus has been the subject of much frivolity over the years,’ serving as a meeting place for skiers, a wedding location and being festooned with ski hats, goggles, Mardi Gras beads and other secular decorations,” the AP said.

In the most recent development, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said it would not appeal its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It had to make its appeal by this week.

It’s nice to have this thing resolved. The courts were right in ruling the statue did not serve a primarily religious function. 

Even if it does have a religious aspect, the statue is not owned by the government, nor is the government pushing it on people. It’s just a statue, it’s been there forever, and it’s become a historical part of the landscape.

Indeed, there are religious statues and monuments all across the country that serve such historical and commemorative functions, and are simply civic reminders of the nation’s religious heritage.

The folks at Freedom From Religion Foundation have long needed to let the statue issue go, and now they finally have.

As he looks serenely from the Whitefish Mountain Resort out over the vast Flathead Valley, the Mountain Jesus seems to be offering rest to everyone in this case, especially the weary and heavy laden members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

– Dwight Harriman
Enterprise News Editor