The aptly named Freedom From Religion Foundation has demanded that the “Big Mountain Jesus” be torn down, because it resides on (leased) US government land. Interestingly, it has a military connection: It was raised by the local Knights of Columbus in honor of the 10th Mountain Division:
They call him Big Mountain Jesus: a six-foot statue of Christ, draped in a baby blue robe and gazing out over the majestic Flathead Valley from his perch along a ski run at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana.
He has been there for more than 50 years, erected by the local Knights of Columbus chapter in honor of the soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who told of seeing similar shrines in the mountains of Italy during World War II.
The Knights of Columbus have asked, naturally, to intervene in the case between the FFRF and the Forest Service. Even the local resort manager saw the historical value of the statue beyond religion:
“It’s a historical monument unique to Big Mountain. Trying to erase that history, just because you have a different belief system, is wrong,” he said.
The FFRF doesn’t seem to care:
“This is a no-brainer,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the group. “A violation doesn’t become less egregious because it’s gone on a long time.”
It’s not a violation, of course. The US Constitution does not prohibit the US government from leasing land to an organization — as it did with the local ski resort. In fact, targeting the lease because of the religious viewpoint expressed on the land would violate the heart of the Constitutional protection of religious liberty.
Then again, if your eyes get hurt thinking about the existence of a Jesus statue, as the FFRF’s apparently have, then the Constitution doesn’t matter. They want the US government to protect them from exposure to religion, even vicarious exposure by mere knowledge or internet photos, even if such actions would violate the Constitution. Not too bright.
The Becket Fund has said they will oppose the FFRF’s attempts to scrub religious symbolism from the American landscape.