Big Mountain Jesus Prevails in Lawsuit

Big Mountain Jesus (Becket)

Though atheists had previously called on Jesus to come down from a Montana mountain ski slope, a Federal district court has said he can stay.

As previously discussed, the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued because the US Forest Service renewed a special use permit that has allowed the statue to stand for more than 50 years.  The Knights of Columbus put it up in 1954 in honor of Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who saw similar monuments in Italy during the second World War.

As noted at the Religion Clause, the court did say the monument has become “more of a historical landmark and a curiosity” than a religious item.  As such, it did not offend the US Constitution.

Don Byrd of the secularist Baptist Joint Committee said this was a bad outcome because it was actually offensive to religion, but Byrd accurately conveys the wholly incorrect reasoning of those who oppose such memorials and displays when he says:

The idea is disturbing that a monument to Christ can lose its religious significance…

First, Byrd’s assertion is asinine, as Judge Dana Christensen explicitly said the monument was “unquestionably” religious.  Second, it wasn’t “a monument to Christ.”  It was a monument to the 10th Mountain Division.  It was a reflection of their experiences, as they indicated.

Just as a cross isn’t always a Christian crucifix, sometimes a memorial can just be a memorial.  Critics like the FFRF and others are blinded by their obsession to have religious symbols removed from the public square — even when they are there for non-religious reasons.

Big Mountain Jesus had been defended by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who hailed the decision as a victory for common sense:

“We still don’t know if a tree falling in a forest makes a sound. But we can be sure that a lonely Jesus statue standing in a Montana forest doesn’t create an official state religion for the United States,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Forest Service initially gave in to the FRFF, and reversed itself only after significant reaction from the public.  It is the latest example of one of several anti-religion organizations who try to use the threat of litigation as a “heckler’s veto” on religious liberty — and the positive results when people stand up to them.