The Forestry Service has
caved to Christian pressure decided to renew the Knights of Columbus special permit which allows them to advertise for Jesus keep their memorial in place for a further ten years.
Forest Service supervisor Chip Weber stated reasons for the decision, namely the statue can be considered a historical monument if people want to go that route, “and that no substantive concerns related to environmental conditions were found in about 95,000 comments received by the agency.”
Environmental concerns? It’s not hurting the land to have it there, so leave it there? That’s their answer? True, it’s just a statue on a ski hill and no doubt Whitefish and the Service have a good arrangement in place for keeping the land cared for while still letting skiers have at it, but there’s a bigger picture they’re ignoring as they check the grass for owies. I guess part of the problem here is a pick-your-battles kind of thing. Of all the issues out there for people who want to raise awareness, separation of church and state isn’t necessarily going to be a high priority for all listeners. There’s environment, there’s education, there’s this other thing and that one. Yes, there are other things that need attention but that doesn’t mean this issue should be swept under the rug and forgotten. It matters, and will matter so long as so many diverse groups believe different things and want different things but still all want to live in the same country. Which means, it’ll matter forever.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argues the religious statue does not belong on public land, said it anticipated the agency’s reversal. It argues that the Forest Service was breaching separation of church and state rules by leasing the 25-by-25 foot patch of land for the Jesus statue.
“We have no objection to shrines like these on private property. That is where they belong,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “I think it will be very easy to show that this special permit is a sham.”
Gaylor said the public comments received by the Forest Service do not make its decision any more constitutional.
“We think we have a very strong case. There is just no question that the Knights of Columbus should not be given a special use permit,” she said
But for now the statue stays. Better luck next decade, I guess…