FFRF not finished fight over Big Mountain Jesus

I missed this on Wednesday, but the Wisconsin-based group has been trying to get this Jesus statue (image via The Blaze) removed from Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort. At the end of January the Forestry Service renewed the special permit the Knights of Columbus needed to keep their memorial in place for another ten years. I figured that would be the end of it, that the Freedom from Religion Foundation would consider it a loss and move their “separation of church and state” issue to another public religious eyesore but clearly I missed the part where they said, “We’re not done here.” The FFRF was, shall we say, disappointed over the Service’s choice to side with “tradition” and “historic” and the Jesus loving KOC and have decided to take the issue a step further – now they’re suing.

Ian Cameron of the newly formed Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association provided some more information about how the statue got there.

Cameron pointed to a 1954 Whitefish Pilot article about the statue’s dedication ceremony as evidence of its unabashed religious symbolism. The article refers to the statue as a “shrine” whose placement on the mountain came at the behest of Catholic skiers participating in the National Ski Championships, which were held at Big Mountain in 1949 and 1951.

“Several of the world’s leading skiers are Catholics and they asked why a shrine had not been placed,” according to the article. Those skiers included early pioneers of the Big Mountain ski area like Toni Matt, former U.S. downhill champion who served as a lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division.

Still, Cameron said the religious connotations cannot be ignored.

“That contradicts all of the previous reports,” Cameron said. “We are not militant atheists out to stamp out religion. We are fighting to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table.”

Cameron said he formed the Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association last September, just as news of the statue’s uncertain fate was reported. Until then, he never knew the statue existed, and to his knowledge none of the association’s roughly two dozen members had complained.

“I’m not a skier so I hadn’t seen it, but now that I know it’s out there looking down on the valley, I am offended,” Cameron said. “It bothers me that it’s up there and that it’s on government land.”

Ubiquitous is the word. Statues are all over the place and often they have some sort of symbolic connection to a faith or religion and most people probably acknowledge their existence without thinking much about them, or simply ignore them altogether. Well, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is standing firm on the idea that it’s time to stop ignoring them. If the statues are on public property, especially government property, then everyone who walks past the thing without thinking needs to be reminded to think about the separation of church and state and why it’s so important to maintain that.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., a vocal supporter of the statue from the beginning, pledged to continue his support of the statue.

“The Whitefish community and the Forest Service did not ask for this fight, but we’re going to do whatever is necessary to win it,” he said Wednesday in an email responding to the lawsuit. “In this case, the Forest Service made the right decision to extend the permit and let the monument stand. They have the overwhelming support of the local community and the American people in their stand against litigious bullies who want to force their narrow beliefs on the rest of us.”

This old canard again? Believe whatever the hell you want. Just don’t force others to do the same and don’t assume you deserve any special treatments because of your beliefs. The statue needs to be moved. It’s promoting a religion and it’s on government property. That is, and has always been, a no no in your country. Never mind how many people and organizations have gotten away with it for years, it’s still wrong. If people still desire a war memorial on the property, design a secular themed one that recognizes the sacrifices made by all soldiers, not just the ones who died Catholic. Why act like it’s more complicated than that? The Blaze article included a link to the FFRF’s site so I’ll finish with a quote from that:

“A federal agency should not hold a vote on whether to obey the Constitution!” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

“The U.S. Forest Service has unlawfully misused federal land owned by all of us to further Christianity in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular. This diminishes the civil and political standing of nonreligious and nonChristian Americans, and shows flagrant governmental preference for religion and Christianity.”

It’s important for people to continue to speak out against that kind of thing. I know it starts to look like they’re tilting at windmills and making pests out of themselves but it’s still an important issue and it’s high time more people started calling “Foul!” rather then put up with it silently. That’s why it’s such a drama to get this kind of thing stopped now. Too many years of being silent. Now there’s a vocal atheist minority that’s tired of going unheard. I don’t know if they’ll win this, but I’m glad to see they want to try.

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