An iconic six-foot-statue of Jesus at Whitefish Mountain Resort may have to find a new home. Known as "Big Mountain Jesus," the statue is currently the subject of a three-judge appeals panel after an atheists group asked it to be removed from the U.S. Forest Service property in Montana. In 2013, a federal district judge ruled that the statue could remain under a 10-year permit. But attorney Rich Bolton, who is representing the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, wants that decision reversed. Bolton argues that the statue violates "the constitutional prohibition on Congress making any law regarding an establishment of religion."
The Knights of Columbus first erected the statue in 1954 to memorialize soldiers who died while fighting during the Second World War. Apparently, soldiers were inspired by the mountain shrines and statues that are ubiquitous in European mountain towns.
Now, the key question remains: is the statue a symbol of religious endorsement, or is it a quirky local landmark with more cultural or historical significance than religious?
As any snow lover knows, today, the statue is primarily used at Whitefish as a meeting place, a selfie backdrop, or a festive model for Mardi Gras beads or ski helmets. We're betting that this ski memorial isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
· Appeals Court Considers 'Big Mountain Jesus' Case [ABC News]
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