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Friday, March 14, 2014

Big Mountain Jesus saved . . . for now

I visited the University of Montana School of Law in beautiful Missoula earlier this week, to talk with students and give a public presentation on religious freedom and the Constitution.  (Thanks to Anthony Johnstone for the hospitality!).  Since I was out there anyway, I decided to do some (ahem) field work, and visit "Big Mountain Jesus," up at Whitefish Mountain Resort (which happened to have recently been gifted with more than two feet of fresh snow).  Here is a picture:   

BMG picture The statue was put up in 1953, by the Knights of Columbus as a memorial for members of the 10th Mountain Division.  As this news story reports:

The monument, which also included a plaque dedicated to the WWII soldiers, was built and maintained by private efforts. Every 10 years the permit for the monument was renewed with the Flathead National Forest.

In 2010, The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation would demand that the Forest Service not renew the permit. While initially agreeing, public outcry led the service to reconsider.

In February 2012, FFRF sued to have Big Mountain Jesus removed from the government owned property.

Powder magazine had this feature on the statute, and the case, recently.  The FFRF lost in the District Court, but has appealed to the Ninth Circuit.  Judge Dana Christensen wrote:

"To some, Big Mountain Jesus is offensive and to others it represents only a religious symbol," Chistensen wrote. "But the court suspects that most who happen to encounter Big Mountain Jesus, it neither offends nor inspires."

He said that to many the statue "serves as a historical reminder of those bygone days of sack lunches, ungroomed runs, rope tows, T-bars, leather ski boots, and 210 cm. skis."

Some of the Court's precedents might suggest that the solution here is to invite the installation of a statue of Ullr close by . . .

Posted by Rick Garnett on March 14, 2014 at 09:07 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Rick Garnett | Permalink

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Comments

You're always welcome in Montana, Rick. As a Missoulian once wrote, there's more field work to do after the snow melts:

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

-- Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Posted by: Anthony Johnstone | Mar 14, 2014 10:23:04 AM

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