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Beliefnet News

Washington Post: Will Knights of Columbus have to remove ski slope’s Jesus statue?

A statue of Jesus on a Montana ski slope is under attack — although its patch of U.S. Forest Service land has been leased for the last 58 years by local members of the Knights of Columbus.

The statue in the snow

The Forest Service was worried somebody might be offended — although there had been no complaints.

Indeed, the publicity has attracted the attention of a group of atheists who say it violates the separation of church and state — and the letter of the law must be followed.


However, the Knights, a local American Legion post and a congressman are fighting to have the statue left alone. 

“The Forest Service offered a glimmer of hope late last week for the statue’s supporters by withdrawing an initial decision to boot the Jesus statue from its hillside perch in the trees,” reports the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section. “But as it further analyzes the situation before making a final decision, the agency warned rules and court decisions are stacked against allowing a religious icon on the 25-by-25 foot patch of land.”


The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is now pushing the agency to stand by its original decision to remove the religious icon.

Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) is irked and says the monument on Big Mountain near Whitefish is a war memorial and shouldn’t be singled out because it has a religious theme.

“During World War II, many American soldiers found inspiration from religions icons, including similar statues of Jesus Christ, in the war-ravaged towns and villages across Europe,” notes Rehburg. “When these brave young men returned home they wanted something to remind themselves and all Americans what kept them fighting during a time of terrible human loss and suffering.”

In 1953, veterans within the local Knights of Columbus Council No. 1328 erected the statue — which sits atop a base that is usually buried in snow during ski season. Similar statues can be found throughout the Alps.


This August, the Knights went through their annual ritual to renew the lease for another 10 years. They were startled when their request was denied by the Forest Service, according to the Christian Post:

Phil Sammon, Forest Service media coordinator for the Northern Region, told the Post that no individuals had complained about the statue to the Forest Service or to Whitefish Mountain Resort, but the permit was denied as a precaution to avoid any unforeseen litigation.

The Office of General Counsel advised the Forest Service that allowing the statue on park property could be considered a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.


“This has huge meaning for Americans. And if you aren’t religious it has huge meaning as well,” Freedom from Religion spokesperson Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Associated Press. “If skiers think that it is cute, then put it up on private property. It is not cute to have a state religious association.”

The Forestry Service is attempting to strike a neutral pose. According to the Christian Post:

“We totally appreciate and understand the local significance, the historical significance of this monument, and so we’re working as much as we can within all the authorities we have to help the Knights of Columbus go through the appeals process for the permit,” Sammon said.


He said they are also looking for places to relocate the statue to.

The Forest Service received the appeal notice on Oct. 11, and Sammon says the Knights of Columbus can expect a decision by early December at the latest.

The statue should be left alone, said Michael Shepard, Commander of the Teddy Roosevelt American Legion Post 108 in Whitefish, according to an email from Congressman Rehberg’s office: “It’s not in an arbitrary location, it’s specifically tied to this community and that mountain. This Forest Service decision is a slap in the face of the men and women who served their country and built this community.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment KAREN GRINMANIS

    I believe the request to remove this statue honoring the men and women of WWII who served and lost their lives protecting the USA is rediculous. Please let the statue stand as is!!!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment 123why

    This is so dumb to remove!Why on earth would anyone do that? Its more symbolic than religious,there is a great view from this spot and it just shows what a great nation we have and how amazing and beautiful it is. I am proud to live in a country where freedom is something that is a staple in our society.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Msgt. Gary Piper USAF retired

    this is a terrible thing. It’s getting to the point that Christains and veterans have no say in America. Didn’t our fore fathers vote for freedom of religon. Our military fights for our rights and freedoms only to be cheated by crazy factions and supported by our elected officials

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dr. Glenn B. Pollock

    This is just another example of the moral bankruptcy that has gripped the nation under a morally bankrupt government. This ‘Freedom from Religion’ group epitomizes the human filth and despicable bullying scum that our government has allowed to foment especially under Democratic administrations. If this continues unchecked, God help us and our country!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Doug Thomas

    You have to be kidding. The protestors to this statue cetainly have a right to dis-agree with whatever message they think it sends. This is America where u have that freedom and many others that the men and women of our armed forces fought to keep it that way. Our country, and our constitution was based on Christian values, whether you beleive or not. As usual people come here wanting to change things, or they grow up here trying to do the same way. But I think that America is the best place to be on the planet. If they don’t believe that then go a a Moslem country, with Sharia law, and complain about one of that countries religious statues, figures, or beliefs and be prepared for the consequences.
    If they can’t stand it, and it offends them then they also have a right to leave, and live somewhere else. They won’t be stopped at the border or suffer any consequences. If u grew up here, then get a 6-12 month Visa (if u can get one) and move to the Moslem country of ur choice, and then see what u think, because then you can compare the difference between here and there. If u moved here from somewhere else, why did u move here to begin with, were u not happy where u were at, and now that ur here u want to try and change things like they were from where u first came. I don’t understand. I don’t hear or see people waiting to get into any other country as much as this one.
    This is America, relish ur freedom, because it wasn’t free, and still isn’t. Appreciate the freedoms u have here. The majority of this country are Christians.
    There is no other place on earth like it. Is America perfect, of course not, do we have problems, of course. The men and women who sacrificed for this country live on through their families, understand all of that… or get out of the way…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Yashi

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

    Therefore…the statue stays.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tegwyn

    The atheist who complained about this offends me because he is a whiny, cry baby. Do you think the ACLU will rush in to defend me because I am offended?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Richard Stairs

    It is freedom OF religion NOT freedom FROM religion. The constitution grants us this freedom so the government can not force or promote a State or National religion. Not from expressing our right to express openly and freely.

    If anything the consideration to remove the statue is a violation of the laws.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment D.

    So if this was against the law how did it get built there in the first place? Something odd here…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Charles

    When are those who oppose religion going to realize, despite court rulings, that neither the US Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence never used the concept “separation of church and state”. Only Jefferson did in a letter. If separation is so essential, why are religious opponents to gays allowed to protest while on public property? I am an atheist disgusted with the tactics of those atheists who demand their beliefs override everyone else’s?

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