It’s a troubling pattern that we see often.

An atheist group is “offended” by a statue or memorial that they consider to be offensive. They file a federal lawsuit to try to get it removed.

This time, it’s happened in Montana – a case we have been involved in for more than a year. As you’ll recall, a statue of Jesus was put in place on Big Mountain at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana in the 1950’s by WW II veterans who were also members of the Knights of Columbus. The veterans were inspired by monuments they saw in the mountains of Europe during the war. The statue of Jesus, they said, was put in place to commemorate the service of local WW II veterans – a war memorial.

We have been aggressively working to defend this memorial for more than a year, including sending a letter to the National Forest Service on behalf of more than 70,000 Americans urging the Forest Service to renew the lease. Following a decision by the Forest Service to keep the statue in place, the FFRF filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year in an effort to have the memorial removed.

Today, we filed a very important amicus brief urging a federal court to reject that lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

In our brief filed today, the ACLJ supports the Intervenor-Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing, and agrees with the Knights of Columbus that Freedom from Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) “failure to name specific members who have been ‘offended’ by the Whitefish Mountain Resort statue is fatal to their case.”  The brief is clear: the FFRF “lacks standing because the injury it alleges is nothing more than hurt feelings which is not cognizable under the Supreme Court’s Article III standing jurisprudence.”

We also note in our brief that FFRF’s objections to the memorial amount to nothing more than “offended observer standing” – which has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLJ represents itself and 18 members of Congress including Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg and the following: Dan Burton (IN), Michael Conaway (TX), Chip Cravaak (MN), J. Randy Forbes (VA), Virginia Foxx (NC), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Bill Johnson (OH), Walter Jones (NC), John Kline (MN), James Lankford (OK), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Jeff Miller (FL), Sue Myrick (NC), Alan Nunnelee (MS), Dennis Ross (FL), Steve Scalise (LA), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA).

At the same time, the ACLJ represents more than 96,000 Americans who signed on to the ACLJ’s Committee to Defend the Jesus Statue War Memorial – Americans who support veterans’ memorials and who oppose efforts to strip from public property recognitions of history and heritage that contain religious symbolism.

We’re extremely pleased that we’re joined by members of Congress and nearly 100,000 Americans who understand that this war memorial represents the history and heritage of the region. It’s a constitutional display that does not reflect a government endorsement of religion.

And, we’re hopeful the court will conclude what we are arguing – the atheist group lacks standing and the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Jay Sekulow


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