Actually, I was just hoping for something vaguely Jesus-looking that I could mock, but this story will do:
(It looks more serious when it’s all caps.)
After being denied a permit renewal to keep a memorial statue of Jesus Christ on the Big Mountain, the Knights of Columbus have appealed the Flathead National Forest decision and garnered the support of Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg.
The statue is near the top of Chair 2 on a 25-by-25 foot parcel of land that has been leased from the Forest Service since 1953.
The statue was erected as a memorial to Montana’s returning World II veterans with the support of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
The special use permit for the lease required a 10-year renewal, which the Knights of Columbus Kalispell Council applied for last year.
Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber issued a decision on Aug. 24 declaring the statue as an “inappropriate use” of national forest lands and ordering it to be removed.
On the side of those who won’t renew the permit is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which “prohibits the government from promoting or affiliating with any religious doctrine or organization” and a statue of Jesus on government property qualifies. If the war memorial featured secular imagery, there’d be no problem. However, people keep insisting that the only way Americans can honour their fallen is by declaring them all loved by a Christian god. Rehberg doesn’t see a problem with that:
“Using a tiny section of public land for a war memorial with religious themes is not the same as establishing a state religion. That’s true whether it’s a cross or a Star of David on a headstone in the Arlington National Cemetery, an angel on the Montana Vietnam Memorial in Missoula or a statue of Jesus on Big Mountain. The Forest Service is just flat wrong to deny this lease on those grounds, and I’m working hard to get them to do the right thing.”
Why limit monuments to Judeo-Christian iconography if it really isn’t about displaying a state-approved religion?
Why not put up a monument with quotes from the Koran, like:
39:39 Allah takes away men’s souls upon their death, and the souls of the living during their sleep. Those that are doomed He keeps with Him and restores the others for a time ordained. Surely there are signs in this for thinking men.
or the Bhagavad Gita:
“For certain is death for the born And certain is birth for the dead; Therefore over the Thou shouldst not grieve.”
I quite like the second one. It sticks to facts of life, not myth and mysticism.
It’s being suggested in the article that the statue could be kept for viewing if KoC is prepared to move it onto privately owned land.
In appealing the decision, the Knights contend that moving the state is likely to seriously damage or even destroy it, because it is anchored to a concrete base that was poured in 1953.
Bill Glidden, Grand Knight of the Kalispell Council, views the denied renewal as unnecessary.
“This statue represents all the World War II vets that came home to Montana, and we erected it with the support of the Mountain division of the military,” he said. “It’s been up there for 60 years and I’ve never heard someone in this area complain about it. It’s part of our community, not just for religious reasons, but there are also weddings and community gatherings up there.”
How big is the base? Can’t the whole thing be uprooted and secured on a trailer for safe travel somehow? If companies can transfer three-story ancestral houses from farm yards to lake-front property several hours, hills, and trees away, there’s got to be someone around who’d know how to move a statue. And who cares how long it’s been there without complaint? If it’s in violation of a rule, it’s in violation.
the Flathead Forest has until Nov. 11 to respond to the appeal with the regional office in Missoula. After that, the Knights of Columbus have a 20-day period to respond and then Deputy Regional Director Jane Cottrell has 30 days to uphold or reject the appeal.
Hopefully I remember to check back and find out the results.