The group argues the statue violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on Congress making any law regarding an establishment of religion.
The original court ruling had cited the historic value of the statue, and even made a point of saying the statue was more of a tourist attraction than religious monument. The FFRF apparently thinks that’s all part of a conspiracy:
A memorial plaque near the Jesus statue, which stands at the upper reaches of Chair Two, details that history. But FFRF disputes the veracity of the story, and argues the notion that the statue honors veterans is a ruse to maintain a Catholic shrine on public land.
Like many cases in the military, there is a bit of nuance. No religion has as its tenet a statue of Jesus Christ at a ski resort. Should the government decide to remove it, it would not technically be “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion (though arguments could be made about targeting such items because of their religious association).
But that is an argument from the negative. The Knights of Columbus and the Park Service are not obligated to justify the statue’s existence; the critics are obligated to justify their demand that it be removed, and that is where they fail. It is flatly ridiculous to assert that the presence of “Big Mountain Jesus” violates the First Amendment’s prohibition that Congress “make no laws respecting an establishment of religion.”
Liberty in the United States permits the FFRF to make such a ridiculous claim. Fortunately, a large dose of common sense and a general promotion of religious freedom generally makes such claims laughable.
However, there’s likely a specific reason the FFRF chose to appeal The Ninth Circuit, to which they appealed, previously found both the Mount Soledad Cross and the Mojave Cross unconstitutional (though the latter was overturned by the Supreme Court). It is entirely possible the Ninth Circuit will rule that same way again, and Big Mountain Jesus may find his way to the US Supreme Court.