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Legal Battle Ignites Over Jesus Statue in Montana [View All]

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alp227 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-24-11 05:47 PM
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Legal Battle Ignites Over Jesus Statue in Montana
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The statue of Jesus at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana. (Matt Baldwin, Whitefish Pilot)

They call him Big Mountain Jesus: a six-foot statue of Christ, draped in a baby blue robe and gazing out over the majestic Flathead Valley from his perch along a ski run at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana.

He has been there for more than 50 years, erected by the local Knights of Columbus chapter in honor of the soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who told of seeing similar shrines in the mountains of Italy during World War II.

These days, though, Whitefishs Jesus statue is at the center of an increasingly bitter battle over the legality of such symbols on federal land.

An atheist group says that because Big Mountain Jesus stands on United States Forest Service property, it is in violation of the constitutional principle separating church and state.

After receiving a complaint about the statue in the spring, the group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, has been urging the Forest Service not to reauthorize the Knights special-use permit for the memorial, which is up for renewal.

(...)

Hiram Sasser, a lawyer for the Liberty Institute, a conservative legal advocacy group, said that because the ski resort is already leasing much of the mountain from the Forest Service, the federal government has no right to ban the statue merely because some people might not like it.


(...)

Meanwhile, United States Representative Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican, has hurled himself into the debate, speaking at rallies for the statue and proposing swapping the 25-foot-by-25-foot piece of land for a parcel owned by the ski resort.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/us/in-montana-jesus-statue-is-focus-of-legal-battle.html
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