In The Military

Tearing Jesus Down

May 11th, 2012


Tearing Jesus Down

Jesus Statue : Knights of Columbus

Background

  • For nearly 60 years, the Knights of Columbus of Kalispell, Montana have owned and maintained the 10th Mountain Division Veterans Memorial located on Big Mountain, a ski resort on land it leases from the federal government in Flathead National Forest.
  • The Knights erected the memorial, a six-foot statue of Jesus, in 1955 in honor of soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. The decision to use a statue of Jesus was inspired by religious statues soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division saw while fighting in the mountains of Europe. Former members of the 10th Mountain Division were founders of the modern day ski industry and thought a ski resort was a fitting place for such a veterans memorial.

Current Status

  • The U.S. Forest Service initially denied the Knight’s permit renewal application in August 2011. However, after an outpouring of public support for the veterans memorial, the government reversed its decision, allowing the memorial to remain in place for at least 10 more years.
  • The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the U.S. Forest Service for renewing the permit, arguing that the statue’s presence is unconstitutional. The lawsuit is currently pending in the Federal District Court of Montana.

Impact

  • Liberty Institute submitted a letter brief to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of the Knights, stating that “allowing the monument to remain does not create a constitutional violation simply because it is a statue of Jesus.” However, removing the monument would amount to unconstitutional “viewpoint discrimination and a content-based restriction on the Knights of Columbus’ private speech.”

 

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