Montana attorney general enters fray over Whitefish Jesus statue

2014-05-08T06:15:00Z 2014-05-08T08:11:25Z Montana attorney general enters fray over Whitefish Jesus statueThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 08, 2014 6:15 am  • 

HELENA – Montana’s attorney general said Wednesday that he supports keeping a 6-foot-tall statue of Jesus next to a Whitefish ski hill as a group of atheists and agnostics seek to remove it from U.S. Forest Service land.

Attorney General Tim Fox and the American Legion filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as it considers the legal challenge by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Fox is asking the court to uphold a federal judge’s August ruling that allows the Forest Service to reissue a 10-year permit for the statue that has stood at Whitefish Mountain Resort for decades.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Montanans and Americans would strongly oppose removing the memorial and all it represents,” Fox said in a statement.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization, had the statue erected on the site in the 1950s.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said in his August ruling that the statue is used more for photo opportunities and as a meeting point than for solemn religious reflection.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the appellate court to overturn the decision, saying the statue violates the separation of church and state.

A permanent Catholic shrine on public land is prohibited under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the group said in its appeal.

The group’s co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said Wednesday that the attorney general’s stance is disappointing but not surprising.

“It’s par for the course with public officials these days,” she said. “It’s increasingly common for politicians to unite with religion and fight our lawsuits. They should be defending our secular constitution.”

The Forest Service first indicated in 2011 that it would reject a new permit for the statue, which occupies a 25-by-25 foot patch of land at the ski resort. But the agency reversed itself in 2012 amid public outcry.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(33) Comments

  1. David1
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    David1 - May 09, 2014 11:54 am
    Look. The statue was put there in the '40s or '50s, after our country went thru a hellish WWII. It's there as much to memorialize the Americans who died in that war as to promote Christianity.

    It was a different time, then. Yes, nowadays, no way could that statue be put there, which is true for any other attempt to put religious icons on public property. In that, a lot of credit has to go to non-believers, and to a certain extent rest on their laurels.

    But, I think they should be more discretionary in what they want to make a case about. Yes, there are some more extreme cases, such as 10 Commandments on courthouse lawns, etc., and I believe these have been successfully dealt with.

    As I said, I doubt many skiers give it a second's thought, or if they do, some of them may not know what it means, anyway. Let's not get carried away with trying to wipe out every past vestige of public expressions of Christianity.

    As I said, there are bigger fish to fry, such as prayer in public schools, creationism, abortion, and the like. The Supreme Court was wrong in its ruling re: prayer before public meetings. Old traditions die hard, but I think, in time, these traditions will either die out or be replaced by new ones.



  2. Roger
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    Roger - May 09, 2014 8:23 am
    That's a very poor analogy - the statue is an advertisement for Christianity, and does not belong on public land. Or would you like to see a monument to atheism on public land near the Jesus statue?
  3. Roger
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    Roger - May 09, 2014 8:19 am
    It's not a petty issue, David - religion is a private matter - let's keep it that way.
  4. Roger
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    Roger - May 09, 2014 8:16 am
    Or a casket.
  5. Roger
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    Roger - May 09, 2014 8:14 am
    Love it or leave it, my way or the highway eh goof1111?
  6. JustEd
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    JustEd - May 09, 2014 7:56 am
    They aren't just from Wisconsin dear. Maybe you should go back to where you came from.
  7. JustEd
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    JustEd - May 09, 2014 7:53 am
    That threat doesn't work dear. You have more to lose by leaving it there. Don't complain to me when we have to follow sharia law.
  8. dsrobinsMT
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    dsrobinsMT - May 08, 2014 7:03 pm
    It's funny how one can always count on our state attorney general Timmy Fox, to jump into controversial issues with both feet so he can side with his fellow Republicans and teabaggers.
  9. dsrobinsMT
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    dsrobinsMT - May 08, 2014 6:53 pm
    But some of us live here and we find it offensive and kitchy since it's so ugly and poorly made. It certainly doesn't belong on public land.
  10. leftwingistherightwing
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    leftwingistherightwing - May 08, 2014 4:37 pm
    Who let walter out of the nursing home??? Back to your pudding, sir.
  11. snickers
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    snickers - May 08, 2014 4:03 pm
    How long before the statue of satan goes up next to it. that's what happened in Oklahoma. Be careful what you wish for.
  12. LiveLaughLove
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    LiveLaughLove - May 08, 2014 2:45 pm
    Now you're getting very personal to a lot of people in the state of Montana, no matter what their beliefs (or lack thereof). That felt like a stab through my heart, which is already filled with enough grief and pain. You may have been using heavy sarcasm, but your other two responders weren't.
  13. David1
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    David1 - May 08, 2014 12:24 pm
    You have nothing to gain by raising petty issues like this. You may have more to lose at stake than you think.
  14. MTminded
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    MTminded - May 08, 2014 11:53 am
    Terrific idea, doc! There is certainly a more appropriate symbol for many of the highway fatalities in Montana, like, a liquor bottle.
  15. Atheist Educator
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    Atheist Educator - May 08, 2014 10:58 am
    walter12 and a few others seem to think that since Christians are a majority that should settle this issue.

    Gee, walter, if the majority wants to have slavery legal again, you'd be backing them up too? Of course you could. That book, the Bible, you know the one tied to the statue in question, CONDONES slavery.

    Luckily, we have a Constitution that keeps the "tyranny of the majority" in check.

  16. Readneck
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    Readneck - May 08, 2014 10:56 am
    Great idea!
  17. Readneck
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    Readneck - May 08, 2014 10:56 am
    Atheists are already the most discriminated against group in the country. We have nothing to lose.
  18. theJdogg
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    theJdogg - May 08, 2014 10:15 am
    Walter, let's say most of us commentators want you kicked off this site because we disagree with your more conservative views? We would be in the majority, i assume. Would you voluntarily say "Ok, I I'm done." and never login again? I would expect not. it's the same with us being in the religious minority. We want a voice and our views about religion as respected as those of a believer's. It's all about freedom for all and not freedom for only the majority.

    I personally feel that due to the historical nature of the statue and it's distance from any government building, courthouse, or public school we should let it stay.
  19. Readneck
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    Readneck - May 08, 2014 10:14 am
    Read the Constitution. This ugly advertisement belongs on private property. Churches should be taxed, because they are really just political organizations now.
  20. David1
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    David1 - May 08, 2014 10:09 am
    I sympathize with what the Atheist organization wants to do, but they should have bigger fish to fry. Yes, technically, the statue should not have been erected, there, on federal land. The statue is a relic of an earlier time in this country, and I doubt many skiers give it a second thought.

    Atheists/agnostics risk alienating people when they raise petty issues like this. "Let it be," as the song goes.
  21. doc
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    doc - May 08, 2014 10:07 am
    What's the next target? How about the roadside crosses marking traffic fatalities?
  22. golf1111
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    golf1111 - May 08, 2014 8:37 am
    I find it appalling these non believers spend there time over a statue of jesus, if you don't like it don't look at it, just stay out of Montana.
  23. Roger
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    Roger - May 08, 2014 8:15 am
    Well, my previous post may be a bit disjointed, as I accidentally hit the "submit comment" bar.
  24. Roger
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    Roger - May 08, 2014 8:12 am
    Why don't Christians should just worship their god, and stop trying to inject their religion into the public sector?
  25. walter12
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    walter12 - May 08, 2014 6:55 am
    Wow, a bunch of communists and atheists voicing their opinion in Missoula. What a surprise. Let us see, atheists compose no more than 2 or 3% of the population of the nation, though maybe 20% in old town Missoula. So why should we do you want?
  26. MTminded
    Report Abuse
    MTminded - May 08, 2014 5:56 am
    Your comment recently became truer than you may have wished.

    The Supreme Court Rules That Christianity Is Not Christian http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-schweitzer/the-supreme-court-rules-t_b_5268488.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

    "The Supreme Court agreed with arguments that undermine our most cherished founding principle, the separation of church and state. As you absorb the folly to come, forget not that early settlers made the arduous journey to our shores in part to escape the stifling oppression of a dominant religion. The urgent need to rid the government from the influence of a single religion was Thomas Jefferson's unifying and guiding light. But Jeffersonian principles have been set aside for the convenience of promoting Christianity over all other religions. Welcome to the United States of Saudi Arabia."
  27. Skinwalker
    Report Abuse
    Skinwalker - May 08, 2014 1:05 am
    I think that you should put a statue of our Al Dente Lord (or maybe just some cooked pasta) on the head of Jesus. This would satisfy all of us true believers.

    RAmen
  28. Ofthemontiers
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    Ofthemontiers - May 07, 2014 10:22 pm
    Hmm .... What Would Jesus Do?

    You know what I think he would do? Defer to the second commandment- "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above" Exodus 20:4a
  29. leftwingistherightwing
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    leftwingistherightwing - May 07, 2014 7:46 pm
    I wonder if I can put a statue of The Flying Spaghetti Monster on federal land. I bet the whiny Christians would have a fit.
  30. leftwingistherightwing
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    leftwingistherightwing - May 07, 2014 7:44 pm
    Why not just turn our government buildings into churches. Only Christian churches of course. Remember, in America you have freedom of religion... as long as you pray to Jesus.
  31. Atheist Educator
    Report Abuse
    Atheist Educator - May 07, 2014 6:49 pm
    “I think the overwhelming majority of Montanans and Americans would strongly oppose removing the memorial and all it represents,” Fox said in a statement.

    You "think?" If you are going to weigh in on this as our representative, I would want to "know."

    The word "pandering" comes to mind.
  32. sew2
    Report Abuse
    sew2 - May 07, 2014 5:08 pm
    It's more par for the course for groups like this. Sue until people give up. Annie, your organization had to essentially take out a full page ad to find someone that could put a "local" face to your lawsuit. What's next, stickers of a cross on people's cars? I mean they are using federal and state property. I'd hate for you to be offended and all. It could cause an accident as you short circuit.
  33. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - May 07, 2014 4:58 pm
    Relax Freedom from Religion Foundation....just don't look at the dam thing if it is so offensive to you...chill!!!!! Life will go on whether the statue is there or not...Relax. Take deep breaths...ok now go back to Wisconsin and quit stressing stuff that really doesn't amount to a hill of beans...
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