How many people have to look up the word “egregious”? I don’t have to, but I will anyway. I see it once meant distinguished but these days it’s defined as something conspicuously bad. Interesting how some words can flip meaning like that, eh?
But onto the post: more in the news about Big Mountain Jesus, the war memorial slash religious shrine at the Whitefish ski resort. Supporters are still making the case that the Forestry Service has always renewed the Knights of Columbus’ special permit for the statue that currently resting on public property. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is stuck reminding people that it’s still wrong to have a display like that on public property, even if no one’s complained about it. Ignorance of the wrong being done can’t be used as a reason to continue perpetuating the wrong once the ignorance is gone. If that made any sense. I’m still working through my coffee here this morning.
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.
“When the government allows its property to be used for various purposes, like a ski resort, then they open it up to public expression, and they can’t exclude a memorial based on religious grounds,” said Mr. Sasser, whose group is representing the Kalispell chapter of the Knights of Columbus in the dispute.
Caught in the middle of the controversy is the Forest Service, which initially denied the Knights’ renewal application in August, on the grounds that it no longer allowed private memorials of any sort on national forestland.
If that is true, then the Knights of Columbus and everyone who supports them is going to have to suck it up and either agree to move the statue, or petition for Whitefish to make an arrangement with the Forestry Service to trade or sell back some of their currently owned property and buy the part of the land the statue is on, an idea that was suggested earlier, and gets a mention in this article, too, but I’ll get to that after this:
But after the ensuing outcry, and a determination that the site is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, it decided to reconsider and is taking public comments on the statue.
“This is a pretty unique situation,” said Jim Peña, acting deputy chief for the national forest system. “Because of the historic and cultural significance of the statue, we’re going to have to relook at it and figure out the right way to go.”
I link to their Criteria for Evaluation but fail to see how the statue could possibly make the cut, even if it is supposed to honour veterans. If it can qualify, then I think their criteria are a bit too broad.
I’ll quote United States Representative Denny Rehberg:
“Would we take the crosses and Stars of David out of Arlington Cemetery?” Mr. Rehberg, who is running for the Senate seat held by Jon Tester, a Democrat, said in an interview. “I don’t think so.”
There’s a difference between a cemetery and a ski resort. I’m sure there’s some logical fallacy going on in that statement, although I don’t know which one, unfortunately.
Whitefish would be willing to do the land swap if it can work out that way and I think that would be the best solution. For some reason Gaylor thinks that’s “absurd.” I don’t really think she makes a decent argument for why, though, namely because Forestry land “is owned by all Americans” and shouldn’t be traded away just to make room for a shrine. Whitefish would give up another piece of land in exchange, though, so Americans wouldn’t actually lose any forest property. Trading pie slices still leaves you with a slice of pie and you’d think she’d be glad Whitefish owned the slice with the Jesus on it, so she wouldn’t have to.
More on this as I find it. Pity this is the shit that becomes news, but so it goes.