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Lawsuit challenging Whitefish Mountain Jesus statue moves forward

2012-11-28T13:46:00Z 2012-11-28T13:50:01Z Lawsuit challenging Whitefish Mountain Jesus statue moves forwardThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 28, 2012 1:46 pm  • 

A lawsuit seeking the removal of a Jesus statue near a Montana ski resort will go on after a national group of atheists and agnostics produced a local member who says he is offended by the religious symbol whenever he swooshes down the slopes.

The Knights of Columbus and four individuals had asked a judge to throw out the legal challenge because the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation had not named anyone actually harmed by the statue on federal land next to Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Without such a person, the Knights of Columbus argued, the foundation had no right to bring the lawsuit.

So the foundation found William Cox, an atheist who lives 15 miles from the northwestern Montana resort. Cox submitted a statement that says he frequently goes to Whitefish and has skied many times past the statue, which he considers religious and offensive.

That was good enough for U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen to deny the Knights of Columbus' request Tuesday and to proceed with the lawsuit. A trial is scheduled for March.

Charlie Harball, the attorney representing the Knights of Columbus, said he had anticipated the judge's ruling but he believed the motion to dismiss had compelled the atheists to produce a person as they are required.

"If we hadn't filed the motion in the first place, we still might not have an individual named," Harball said. "It's kind of forcing people to do what they're supposed to do."

Attorneys from the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit in February, arguing the U.S. Forest Service is unconstitutionally sanctioning the 57-year-old statue maintained by the Knights of Columbus. The statue was originally conceived by World War II veterans who saw similar shrines while fighting in the mountains of Europe.

Several out-of-state conservative and religious groups have pledged their support in defending the statue's existence on its 25-by-25 foot patch of land, saying it represents the history and heritage of the region.

The Forest Service initially decided last year not to reauthorize a special-use permit for the statue, but reversed that decision and said its historic nature allowed it to remain.

Attorneys for the Forest Service said in court filings they had no position on the Knights of Columbus' request to dismiss the lawsuit.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - November 30, 2012 1:08 pm
    I have no objection if the Knights of Col. want to move the statue to the entryway of their own PRIVATE KC hall. But from what I've observed of Helena KCs, the hall is not so much a religious meeting place as a place where the KCs can go drink beer in peace and get away from their wives for a few hours.

    If it's moved to the entryway, the middle-aged beer-belly KCs will hav e to be careful not to knock it over as they bumble their beery ways in and out.
  2. TalkingSnake
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    TalkingSnake - November 30, 2012 11:05 am
    ptakala - your xian persecution complex is in full display. It's very simple - you can't use government resources to promote one brand of faith - period. End of discussion. If the KoC wants to fight this, they'll lose. Someone suggested making the 25' x 25' parcel of land private. That was the solution adopted in a similar case in the Mojave area.

    Just so you understand, this is not an affront to all WWII vets. It is to some, the xians, but not all. What feels like religious persecution to you is merely a growing segment of the population that does not share those beliefs standing up for their rights and fair treatment by the government. This tends to run afoul of some traditions, but too bad - get over it.
    Fortunately, these kinds of things don't get put to a vote. The beleaguered, downtrodden xian majority would then continue to get their way. Much like segregation and miscegenation were swept aside, civil rights are not decided on by majority vote.

    What is so offensive about this statue you ask? Can you imagine if you were the parents of one of the untold children who have been molested over the years by (mostly Catholic) priests? Jesus was a good guy (if he existed), but his statue has come to stand for all of the bigotry and hypocrisy of the so-called 'xians' out there. Either move it to private property or remove it entirely.
  3. hearditall
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    hearditall - November 30, 2012 7:57 am
    have atter Curm. You got the bucks, no problem. Personally I'd spend my $$ on other things. This is all a bunch of pride & vanity anyway. How childish adults are!!!
  4. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - November 29, 2012 11:08 am
    I am in accord with the Constitutional issue raised by the FFRF and guess what: I'm not even an atheist!

    This is on federal lad, which does not belong exclusively to Christians, it be longs to ALL the people of the USA, and they are not ALL Christians.

    However, if the courts okay this statue, I am going up on Big Mountain and erecting statues of (1) the Buddha; (2) Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god; (3) the deity of the Church of Satan; just to start.

    If it's okay for the Christians, it's okay for all the rest. Fair's fair.
  5. FlamingLiberal1
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    FlamingLiberal1 - November 29, 2012 9:26 am
    Looks like the Lord is signaling "FIELD GOAL"
  6. steeline
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    steeline - November 29, 2012 8:45 am
    If the presence of a "religious/spiritual symbol" is offensive to an athiest, likewise, the absence of a religious/spiritual symbol may/can be offensive to a "beleiver". I won't judge these people, it is not in my job description. However, I do have an opinion. Sooner or later they will get what they get.
  7. hatrack71
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    hatrack71 - November 29, 2012 8:07 am
    Wow, humanity around here has hit an all time low. What ever happened to tolerance of others? Good grief, this is shallow and petty! Make it stop.
  8. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - November 28, 2012 3:46 pm
    Why doesn't the forest service just swap a 25x25 piece right next to it with Big Mountain and call it good? Then the statue would be located on private land and these fools would have to go find something else to complain about.
  9. ptakala
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    ptakala - November 28, 2012 2:19 pm
    Of all the trumped up bull stuff...this takes the cake. This is an affront to our WWII vets as well as the majority of us as Christians. When are we going to stop pandering to these jokers who have nothing better to do with their time than file frivolous law suits like this. Let's put this kind of thing to a vote and see what happens then. This offends ME when someone portends to be offended while skiing in the vicinity. What is so offensive about a statue that this individual apparently has "skied many times past this statue" without being bothered by it. At least not until some out- of- state organization contacted him.

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