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  1. A condensed version of the article:

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that a 12-foot statue of Jesus at Whitefish Mountain Resort “did not sprout from the minds of (government) officials and was not funded from (the government’s) coffers.”

    “Big Mountain Jesus” is located on public land that the U.S. Forest Service leases to a private organization. The statue was installed in 1954 by the Knights of Columbus at what was then called Big Mountain, to honor World War II veterans and members of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. It is included in the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued a statue of Jesus on public land violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    The court said “the flippant interactions of locals and tourists with the statue suggest secular perceptions and uses.” Those include “decorating it in Mardi Gras beads, adorning it in ski gear, taking pictures with it, high-fiving it as they ski by, and posing in Facebook pictures.

    The intent of the Forest Service, which issues the permit allowing the statue, “is the key here,” their decision said. “Nothing apart from the (statue’s likeness) suggests a religious motive” on the part of the Forest Service. The permit reflects the secular nature of the statue, they said, including “the government’s intent to preserve the site ‘as a historic part of the resort.’ ”

    What the permit did not constitute, the judges said, was the endorsement of religion. “There is nothing in the statue’s display or setting to suggest government endorsement,” the ruling said. “The 12-foot-tall statue is on a mountain, far from any government seat or building, near a commercial ski resort, and accessible only to individuals who pay to use the ski lift.” Few individuals are likely to see the statue and believe the government is using it to favor a particular religion or compel any religious practice, they added.

  2. Since that mountain in Alaska is now officially Denali, what about changing the names of certain US cities named for Christian saints — San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Jose, etc.?

  3. I, as a Knight of Columbus and as a skier who has witnessed Big Mountain Jesus, am pleased with the 9th Circuit Court’s decision. The claim that the statue’s presence constitutes an endorsement of religion by the Federal Government is a farce and disrespectful to the soldiers who were the object of the statue’s intent. It’s a good day for honoring well-meaning tradition.

  4. In case this piqued your interest in Constitutional law, here is a little more background on the First Amendment “establishment of religion” issue:

    “Religious displays on public property remain controversial under the First Amendment. In May the Ninth Circuit upheld a Santa Monica, California, city ordinance prohibiting unattended exhibits, including Nativity scenes, in Palisades Park. Last year a judge for the US District Court for the District of New Mexico ruled that a New Mexico city must remove a Ten Commandments monument placed outside of Bloomfield city hall. In May 2014 the US Supreme Court ruled that the practice of opening town meetings with a prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In 2011 the Supreme Court declined to rule on whether crosses placed beside highways as memorials to deceased Utah Highway Patrol troopers is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, allowing the August 2010 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which found the display unconstitutional, to stand.” (http://jurist.org/paperchase/2015/09/federal-appeals-court-allows-religious-statue-to-remain-on-national-forest-land.php)

    (Apparently the issue of “Santa Monica” didn’t come up, Steve.)

  5. Aw Jeeze….
    I grew up skiing on Big Mountain (now Ski Whitefish, la de dah) and the Jesus statue is just part of the experience. You know, after a big dump of fluff, drop by to say “Thanks, dude!” Or, when it’s Easter, go up for the sunrise experience. Over my dead body would that thing be taken down or removed.
    To be honest, however, the Jesus statue is mainly a Cold War artifact. If you look at the time it was constructed, the Red Menace and godless Communism was a big deal in the early 50s. And leading the charge against the godless Commies (whom I still loathe, not necessarily for being Godless) were church institutions such as the Knights of Columbus. Never mind the Tenth fought (and bled) a lot in mostly-Catholic Italy, et cetera.
    I’m not sure if I’d support its erection on bare dirt today. But the atheists are just as zealous and destructive and intolerant of other theological worldviews as those ISIS idiots who just leveled Palmyra. It’s a good thing they lost, this time.

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