Montana Court Rules That Giant Statue of Jesus Is Not Religious

If you were to go skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana, a resort on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), you might come across a statue known as “Big Mountain Jesus”:

(Linda Thompson – The Missoulian)

The reason that statue is allowed to be on the property is because the USFS gave the Knights of Columbus a “Special Use Permit” in 1953 to build and maintain a memorial to honor WWII veterans. However, the Knights decided to build Big Mountain Jesus because “veterans from the 10th Mountain Division… wanted to commemorate their fallen comrades with a statue that evoked memories of the many religious shrines and statues they had seen in the mountain communities of Europe.”

Well, isn’t that convenient… We didn’t intend to build a statue to Jesus. The veterans requested it!

In any case, it’s been up there for about 60 years. There’s no doubting the religious significance of it, since people have held church services and weddings near the statue.

That’s why the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit to take down the statue in 2011, claiming it represented an establishment of religion by the government.

Earlier this week, a judge at a federal district court in Montana issued his decision: Jesus can stay put (PDF).

To the extent Big Mountain Jesus may have had some religious significance at the time of its construction by the Knights of Columbus, and may have provided from time to time spiritual inspiration or offense to some, over the course of the last 60 years the statue has become more of an historical landmark and a curiosity.

The government neither owns the statue nor exercises control over the property on which it is located. Big Mountain Jesus constitutes private speech reflecting the personal views of its private owners and therefore cannot be seen by the reasonable observer as reflecting government promotion of religion.

In summary, the Court finds that the USFS renewed the Special Use Permit because the statue is steeped in the origins and history of Big Mountain and the surrounding community, which constitutes a legitimate secular purpose.

You see, the statue of Jesus has historical significance… even though a religious organization put it up for religious reasons. And it’s a goddamn giant statue of Jesus. The judge even said, “Unquestionably, Big Mountain Jesus is a religious symbol commonly associated with one form of religion.”

I guess none of that matters.

Part of Judge Dana Christensen‘s decision hinges on the fact that no one complained about Big Mountain Jesus for 60 years — much like no one complained about a Ten Commandments monument in Van Orden v Perry until it was too late.

Of course, he ignores the fact that atheists are often afraid to file lawsuits like these because it would “out” them and possibly hurt their families or careers…

FFRF tried to argue against that whole “tradition” point in 2011:

“This has been an illegal display. The lease should have never happened,” [FFRF co-president Annie Laurie] Gaylor said. “Just because a violation is long-lasting doesn’t make it historic. It makes it historically bad. It makes it worse. It makes it all the more reason to get rid of it.”

Even if there’s a legal precedent to this, it makes little sense to me. Just because something has been around for a long time doesn’t make it okay. Just because no one complained about it before doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth complaining about.

This is the same argument Christians used when Jessica Ahlquist tried to take down her school’s religious mural: It’s been there for decades and no one complained before… so it should stay!

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux explained in his ruling that that was a spurious argument:

While all agree that some traditions should be honored, others must be put to rest as our national values and notions of tolerance and diversity evolve. At any rate, no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction.

Who knows why Christensen — an Obama appointee — chose to ignore that line of thought.

Gaylor, in response to the ruling, was stunned:

“The judge said the statue has no religious purpose, but the Knights of Columbus said they put it up to erect a shrine,” Gaylor said. “He turns the First Amendment on its head to claim a Jesus statue is not religious.”

“I couldn’t be more disappointed in an Obama appointee,” Gaylor said. “He might as well be a Bush appointee.”

Simon Brown of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the obvious when the lawsuit was initially filed, but it’s worth repeating now:

“If the Knights of Columbus really want[ed] to honor veterans, they [would] respect the principles of the Constitution that those veterans fought for and move the statue.”

FFRF will likely appeal the ruling.

(via Religion Clause)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Philbert

    “I couldn’t be more disappointed in an Obama appointee,” Gaylor said. “He might as well be a Bush appointee.”

    Like the judge in Kitzmiller v. Dover?

    • Mark W.

      I have to agree, what a stupid statement.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    It’s certainly not art. I wonder if it counts as a graven image of the “thou shalt not” variety?

    • WoodyTanaka

      looks like a Catholic style. They have no problem with graven images.

      • Xuuths

        Catholics have their own version of the Ten Commandments, which conveniently does not include anything against graven images.

        • WoodyTanaka

          Shrug. They say theirs is correct. Since it’s all fiction anyway, who goves a rip?

      • Reginald Selkirk

        looks like a Catholic style.

        Not especially. Catholics like their Jesus imagery to come with implements of torture. If not nailed to a cross, then at least with a crown of thorns and holes in the hands.

        • WoodyTanaka

          The Sacred Heart is very Catholic.

        • SirReal

          That heart on his chest is decidedly Catholic in nature… the Sacred Heart. My mother has little statues and pictures exactly like this one around her house and office (at the church). That statue is in a Catholic style, which makes sense since the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization.

  • Jasper

    “But.. but, I’ve been murdering people for over 60 years! It’s historical now”

    “Oh, alright! You’re off the hook.”

  • MD

    What a load of crock. I live in Europe, and that tacky thing wouldn’t pass muster as a shrine here. They’d be better off with Buddy Jesus.

    • Randay

      Well, not exactly. Look up “statue at Lourdes” on google and you will find a plethora of tacky images, like this one:

      http://schoolnet.gov.mt/sinemaculachoir/History/Diary/Lourdes.htm

      I am worried about the gov.mt location. What is “mt” and which “gov” is it?

      • MD

        mt is for Malta, a bastion of Catholicism. Their statue is tacky indeed, but there is a difference in the matter of size. Shrines are usually half the size of Mountain Jesus, or less. And Catholics love throwing money at these things, so you’ll have gold gilding and high quality cloth covering the statues. They think paying to decorate a statue, or commissioning a posh painting will buy them brownie points with God.

  • Randay

    At least I now know, if nature calls, where to take a piss or shit if I am skiing there.

  • WoodyTanaka

    Doesn’t seem like a problem that a sledgehammer and a few minutes work can’t solve

  • C Peterson

    I don’t normally advocate illegal actions, but they do have their place. Somebody just needs to push this plaster abortion over the edge. Woody’s suggestion of a sledgehammer works, too, although getting one up the mountain is a bit more work.

    • Terry Firma

      I wouldn’t. Let’s not. Gives us all a bad name.

      • C Peterson

        I disagree. Sometimes that kind of activism is good. And personally, I don’t believe in tiptoeing around every issue because I’m worried about giving us “a bad name”. We already have that, and letting ourselves get kicked around by jackbooted Christians and an all-to-often nonsecular court isn’t my idea of how to handle things.

        This thing is obscene, and pushing it off the mountain is an appropriate response.

        • 7Footpiper

          I happen to agree, kick the fucker off the mountain top. I know it’s vandalism and makes us look bad but maybe we’ve been going about this all wrong. If it’s “freedom of expression” to deface legally placed atheist signs and helps build a strong and united community then I think it’s high time atheists respond in kind in the spirit taught to us by christians and start doing our part……..it would please the baby jesus!

          • Blacksheep

            “Veterans of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division asked Montana members of the Knights of Columbus to create a memorial like the hilltop shrines they encountered in Europe during World War II.”

            Now they are old men, but back in the day, when they returned from fighting nazi’s in tha Alps, how would they have responded to someone who wanted to “kick the fucker off the mountaintop.”

            • EuropeanCommunist

              I guess it depends on whether each individual soldier was a Catholic. I bet all of them weren’t.

              • Blacksheep

                My queston still stands, regardless of their faith – how would the veterans, if they were a part of this conversation today, respond to a call to “Kick the fucker off the mountain.”

                • Reginald Selkirk

                  Why should we give more obeisance to their desires than they give to ours?

                • Blacksheep

                  It’s a thought experiment which you don’t need to play along with (or care about). I’m posing a SPECIFIC question to 7FootPiper: How would veterens of the 10th MD have responded to his suggestion to “Kick the fucker off the mountain” after they had returned from fighting nazi’s in the Alps?

                  My point is just as much about respect and empathy as it is about right and wrong.

                • C Peterson

                  I don’t believe that respect ever justifies maintaining a wrong.

                • 7Footpiper

                  Since my reply above doesn’t really play to your thought experiment too much I will expand a bit here. Obviously the quote in question is designed for shock and awe and they’d probably respond with threats of physical violence. Fortunately, I am not making that statement at the end of WWII, I’m making it in a vastly different world and one in which those veterans if they’re alive today could very well see our point.

                  And if it’s a thought experiment, it’s a very mundane one.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  You’ve got some toilet paper hanging out the back of your satin boxers. Kinda takes away from your ‘tough talk’.

                • Gus Snarp

                  Really? Because when you put it in those terms “how would [they] have responded…after they had returned from fighting nazis..?” it sounds more to me like your point is about the threat of violent revenge for the destruction of a cheap plaster symbol than about respect and empathy.

                • Blacksheep

                  In this case, it’s because they crawled up frozen mountains and took bullets for us.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  And they should be able to put up a memorial because of it. That memorial shouldn’t be a slap in the face to all the non-Catholic soldiers who crawled up frozen mountains and took bullets with them nor to all the non-Catholic citizens they did it for.

                • WoodyTanaka

                  How is that in any way relevant?

            • C Peterson

              I don’t give a damn. If they felt that a statue of Jesus was acceptable on a mountain, they aren’t people I have much respect for.

              However, I do kind of like the idea of painting a little Hitler hairdo and mustache on it. That would turn it into a memorial for a somewhat more savory villain, at least.

            • 7Footpiper

              What’s your point? It seems that doing it the nice way hasn’t worked out to well up to this point. I’d also seriously doubt that the hilltop shrines encountered during WWII were as gaudy, that looks like something you’d find outside an RCC with candles around it.

            • WoodyTanaka

              Why should we care how they would have responded?

          • Patrick

            The statue doesn’t sit on the ‘mountain top’. The Big Mountain is comparatively small at 6800 ft. elev. with a decent vert over 2300 ft. against say a Snowmass, Jackson Hole or a Telluride. The statue is mid to low mountain at the exit of a pine grove that opens up to a sloped table top so you better know where it’s at to find it. Then you’ll need to drag it a few hundred yards to even get it near any sort of precipice which, at this elevation would be more akin to rolling it down a hill if, you can get it through the trees. If you choose to toss it down the slopes I’m sure the Park Service will make room for you in lock down accompanied by $1000′s in fines. Good luck with that!!!

            It’s comments like this that give the atheist movement a bad name and I wouldn’t belong to any group that would have me. No one and I mean NO ONE knows how the universe and subsequently us came into existence… not even my idol Lawrence Krauss… All I can say is that’s it’s a one man show not a group effort whether, belonging to a crazy religious cult or whacked out atheist club. If we become worm meal or meet some awe inspiring Spaghetti Monster is yet to be seen by each of us individually.

            • 7Footpiper

              Though it’s amazing the attention a statement will get when a bit of profanity is thrown in for good measure. As a rational person I probably wouldn’t immediately resort to physically kick it off the mountain top (or wherever it is, thanks for the pointers on where to find it!) and frankly, as someone living outside the US who cares more about being able to visit some of the great places there are to visit I’d probably not want to attract the ire of the Homeland Security folks so I’m not a threat to this plaster monstrosity. Great social change can come about through acts of vandalism, protest and even violence…….as we see on an almost daily basis it’s almost impossible to find a public servant willing to take our side in these types of issue let alone get anything done about it.

        • SJH

          Trust me, it does give you a bad name. It also refutes the whole idea that atheists are “good without God”. The average person who is thinking about becoming atheist will probably be turned off by it. On the other hand it will help the angry person who wants to become an atheist probably convert. This however only leads toe the “angry atheist” stereotype. If you want to be evidence that stereotypes match reality then be my guest.

          • C Peterson

            You missed my point. I don’t care about having a bad name among those who would find my act offensive. I already have a bad name among those people for supporting the Constitution, and considering their belief system to mark them as idiots.

          • Carmelita Spats

            What if shoving that plaster abortion down the
            mountain is not done in the name of atheism but in the name of aesthetics? That Jesus figurine is so goddamn atrocious that it makes Yahweh swallow nails and shit screws. I’m an angry aesthete and we don’t have Christians stereotyping us yet so we have nothing to lose.

            Hell, we’ve put up with YEARS of Jan Crouch’s insufferable “Marie Antoinette” wigs, Tammy Faye Bakker’s gawdawful makeup, and Christian rock that doesn’t need to mention Jesus or the word savior, or Lord, or “Don’t touch my genitals” in the lyrics like, five hundred times to make it clear they don’t have much fun in life, but still. Enough is enough. Jesus needs a make-over. I’m thinking black Diesel jeans, Hugo Boss motorcycle boots and a snug tank top featuring a large “Cutie” across the chest.

            Have you even SEEN the plaster abortion? A baby
            blue tunic over purple draping? Seriously? Who the hell mixes tawdry Maybelline blue with purple? EWWWW! The hair is ALL wrong. Jesus needs a tolerable haircut
            from a recent decade. We could paint his toenails beet red and have corporate branding all over Jesus, like a NASCAR driver, “Now here’s Jesus brought to you
            by the new Ford F-150 Extended Cab XLT”. Mopar Jesus. Midas Muffler Jesus. Penzoil Jesus. The mind reels.

            I’ve always supported the separation of church and state as part of an AESTHETIC principle. May Mighty Aphrodite help us when taxpayers are forced to finance supernatural enthusiasms such as…

            Overstuffed Jesus on Bud Light:
            http://paxarcana.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/nice-halo-fatty/

            Or the glorious Statue of Liberation through Christ:
            http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/2006/07/the-statue-of-liberation-through-christ/

            Or the Colossus of the Ozarks:
            http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/17113

            • Patrick

              As a non-believer that values science over superstition… no proof of any god or a man from 2000 years past roaming the Levant named Yeshua bar Yosef (see Philo of Alexandria chronicler of the time that never makes mention of this man-god) exists. However, as an avid skier and defender of the rights of others whether, I agree or not if, I were present while anyone tried to deface or pull down Jesus of the Mountain that person(s) would be in for the ass beating of their life so intense that not even the 10th Mountain Brigade could save them.

          • C Peterson

            I don’t think people “think about becoming atheists”. If they start thinking reflectively, they probably become atheists. You can no more decide to become an atheist than you can decide to become a theist. Beliefs develop, they are not chosen.

            At most, an atheist who was disturbed by the morals of other atheists might choose to avoid advertising himself as such, or avoid associating with atheist organizations. But even that would be rare, I think. They certainly aren’t going to revert to theism!

            In any case, most atheists have given a lot of reflective thought to the subject of morality, and are quite capable of understanding that what an individual does- good or bad in their eyes- rarely reflects on other people with similar views in a different area.

            • Blacksheep

              It’s not a given that reflective thinking results in Atheism. I’m an unceasing reflective thinker – with close friends that share every belief one can think of. The result of reflection, learning, reading, and living has led me to faith in God – and beyond that, Christianity.

              • C Peterson

                True. The reflection has to be accompanied by a degree of intelligence, as well as a degree of actual knowledge.

                It’s no accident that the higher the intelligence, and the higher the education, the greater likelihood a person will be an atheist.

    • GeraardSpergen

      Not vandalism, but maybe some fun? Put some Mardis Gras beads in his hands. Or a ski cap on his head. Or put a friendly sign between his arms… like “SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY YOUR DESCENT”.

      • C Peterson

        I’d argue it isn’t vandalism at all, but simply doing my civic duty to remove litter when I encounter it in public places. If you’re supposed to pack out your shit in bags, then surely that applies to this thing, as well?

        • Blacksheep

          Wow.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I’m guessing you missed the comment in the morality thread.

            • Blacksheep

              yes…

        • Larry

          You’re an asshole and I’m ashamed to be even tangentally associated with you. Atheists like you are the reason a lot of people who don’t believe in God are unhappy using the word atheist. Vandalising other people’s property is wrong, even if you don’t agree with their beliefs.

        • Patrick

          Do you snow ski? If so, are you a regular at the Big Mountain? If the answer is no to either question then what the fuck should you care? Public or not it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere and takes forever to get there unless, you’re a local that pays big $$$’s for a season pass and if, as a visitor your precious senses are so offended then head on down to Bridger Bowl.

          Mind your own damn business and leave the mountain and it’s regulars to decide what they’ll do on their home hill.

          The problem with atheists is that they’re just as big a pack of shit heads as those proselytizing the word of some non-existent sky fairy only they’re worse for they are supposedly so enlightened and claim to know more than anyone else.

          Stupid is as stupid does.

      • Todd

        If it’s truly not a religious statue then no one should be offended if he’s non-permanently altered with a cute hat on his head, some mittens on his hands, a dildo in his hand, or whatever. It seems that if someone did have a little fun with it and any religious people were offended, that would then indicate that it actually is a religious statue and isn’t serving only a secular purpose.

      • ShoeUnited

        I slow clapped in my office to “SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY YOUR DESCENT”

      • Gus Snarp

        At a place I once worked we happened to have a beautiful carved wood Virgin Mary statue in storage. A couple of us pulled it out and plopped it in a co-workers cubical. No one touched it after that, out of respect? I don’t know. Meanwhile we routinely put different costumes on it when inspiration struck. Including Mardi Gras beads.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I don’t normally advocate illegal actions

      It only takes once. Unless you plan to invite a camera crew to make a statement out of it and invite arrest, you’re just being a dick.

      • C Peterson

        Actually, I’d probably do it quietly, and consider it an act of public service.

        I don’t think illegal actions are automatically unethical.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          And they replace the statue and you’re charged with vandalism. And you get to be the poster child for atheists.

          Makes sense.

          Fuck- how many posts have we had about people vandalizing atheism signs, and defending is as “doing God’s work”?

          Maybe should try invoking Richard Wade’s “deathsticks” line.

          • C Peterson

            That’s why I’d do it quietly.

            In any case, this has nothing to do with atheism, and I’d not argue my case as an atheist, or even present myself as one. This is about state/church separation. To paint this as an atheist issue is a gross misrepresentation. I might even argue that this statue offended me because of my Jewish or American Indian heritage.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Fuck- how many posts have we had about people vandalizing atheism signs

            On public land? Exactly never.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              You need to expand that to include signs on public land along with various other signs. e.g. Solstice signs.

              As it currently stands, the statue is deemed legal. We can all agree here that that’s bullshit, but vandalizing it doesn’t educate anyone, or even solve the problem of that particular statue for more than a few days. It might feel good, but it won’t advance our cause any way any how.

              You all know I’m not advocating being a doormat. I’m saying think about what you want to accomplish, and consider whether your actions will move you in that direction. Unless you have some kind of awareness raising exercise in mind, I think petty vandalism would take us away from the goal of enforcing the establishment clause.

    • JET

      Given the general irreverence and beer-drinking habits of young male snowboarders, it might actually serve a purpose by saving a tree or two.

    • Matt D

      We’ve gotten a foot in the door…if we use it to kick the thing down while they stand on the other side, the zombies then pour out and overwhelm us.
      .
      I’d like to be less dramatic over a mere statue, but these people use emotion in place of reason, so showing them the flaws and inconsistencies in their religion is the method that seems to work best.
      .
      It could be worse…you could live in the past where they were used violence openly and speaking against them was social sucicide, if not worse.

    • Fred

      I’ll bring a chisel.

  • Tainda

    I prefer baby Jesus to Big Mountain Jesus.

  • eric

    I honestly can’t get that upset about this one, primarily because the feds have been leasing this land out to a private ski resort for decades and I expect most of the visitors are likely to associate the speech with the private ski resort rather than the federal government.

    No, it shouldn’t be there. Yes, its unconstitutional. Yes, the judge is wrong. But in this case, I think the practical impact is very near nil: I don’t think many people are walking away thinking the US government is supporting or establishing a religion. To me this is a much, much lower priority fix than, say, any one of the numerous examples of HS administration-sponsored religious speech.

    • OhioAtheist

      My thoughts exactly. This one’s not worth the fight.

    • frankbellamy

      I think I’d go a little farther than you and say if this is really on land leased by a private entity, then I’m not sure it is unconstitutional. If the land is leased and operated by a private entity and run as a business, if the benefit the public gets from government ownership of the land is not the use of the land for some public purpose, but simply the revenue from the rent, then why should the government or the public care what the private entity does with the land? As you say, any reasonable observer would attribute the speech to the private entity, not the government, so what bad message is sent by it?

      I’m a little confused about the facts of this lease though, if it was a simple lease then why would the forest service be issuing a special use permit rather than signing a simple lease agreement? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

    • frankbellamy

      An analogy occurs to me that I think is useful. When I was an undergrad at the University of Delaware, a number of my friends leased residences, dorm rooms owned by the state of Delaware. Many of them who were religious displayed various religious symbols and images in those government owned but privately leased spaces. Unconstitutional? If not, then what is the difference between that and this?

  • busterggi

    Another wonderful artifact from the McCarthy years that added god to the Pledge of Allegiance. BTW, if its privately owned shouldn’t it be on private land?

    • Reginald Selkirk

      BTW, if its privately owned shouldn’t it be on private land?

      That leads to another sensitive issue. In some Western states, there is an awful lot of federal land, which is managed by the Land Management Bureau for grazing and all sorts of things.

      • busterggi

        Well as a tax payer I demand free beef then!

  • Rain

    Which one is the statue. The one with the beard looks very silly. The other one looks like it is posing for a “Suzy Chapstick” commercial.

  • Wendy Blackwood

    In Montana, of course it isn’t religious, just like the 90 foot statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the continental divide isn’t religious
    . http://ourladyoftherockies.net/

  • Beth

    So local atheists can erect a FSM statue right next to it? As long as we have soldiers who want it…

    • Mairianna

      Yes. Solders who ONLY come from thinking our point of view. I’m sure the KOC didn’t go asking any Jewish vets, or Sihk vets, or Hindu vets what kind of “shrine” they wanted!

      • SJH

        Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that the soldiers would want a Catholic statue since the approached a Catholic organization to install it?.

        • Beth

          The point is that this is on publicly owned land, and the permit should not have been given for a religious shrine…any religion even non-religion.

        • Ross Gibson

          Did the soldiers approach the Knights of Columbus or did the Knights approach the soldiers? from the tone, it sounded like a religious group wanted to post a religious icon, and were using the emotions of the time to push it through.

    • Free

      That is correct. And if there were a Carl Sagan statue would you be satisfied? If so, start the paperwork. If not, you’ve got a greater problem than you realize.

      • Beth

        So a sign that says “worship no gods” is okay on public land?

  • Blacksheep

    As a Christian, I’m more concerned about how this statue damages the perception of Christianity on a purely aesthetic basis. This does not look like “religious shrines and statues they had seen in the mountain communities of Europe.” – At least not the ones I’ve seen!

    • WoodyTanaka

      It looks like all the other crappy, low-rent Christian “art” produced in the last few hundred years.

      • Blacksheep

        I’m not sure about a few hundred – but certainly since the 1940′s.

        • WoodyTanaka

          Such as what before 1940? I’m saying between, say, Ciseri’s Ecce Homo and today you’ve Chigall’s Golgotha, Dali’s religious works, Serrano’s Piss Christ (which most Christians don’t even understand) and what? The rest are stuff like Warner Sallman, Thomas Kinkade or kooks like Jon McNaughton.

          • Blacksheep

            That was my point – Ciseri’s Ecce Home is terrific, (great example) and that was created within the last few hundred years.

            • WoodyTanaka

              Yes, and it is decidedly the exception not the rule. The rule for the last few hundred years – and I will be more precise here and say during the modern era to today, say from 1860 to the present — has been that religious art is nearly universally atrocious. Why is that?

  • Paul Lambert

    Well then why the hell did we abolish slavery? It wasn’t morally wrong, it had historic president. Same goes for segregation, rampant industrial pollution, child labor, etc, etc, etc.

    • Todd

      I had the exact same thought regarding slavery. The slave trade was active for hundreds of years, not just 60.

  • Matt D

    I wonder if painting that statue a deep brown would work. I’ve always been confused on why people portray Jesus as a white male, but perhaps that’s because I haven’t seen the apologists reasoning for that.

  • Free

    Get over it. Its a statue on private land owned by people exercising their constitutional rights. If it were on govt. land of course the argument would stand to bring it down. You would not whine if it were Bob Marley. Don’t start getting sweaty over a double standard that you want to see enforced. You are seeking to remove anything religious or Christian from the public arena and I can understand that as you have a Constitutional basis to do so. But, come on. This is a private affair and with in constitutional boundaries. They say if you do not like something you deem offensive on the boob tube then don’t watch it. If you are skiing in Montana, turn your head and ski fast.

    • aaa

      “Its a statue on private land”

      From the first line of this post: “a resort on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)”

      Not overly concerned about facts?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Well, reading am hard.

      • Free

        Look folks, read between the lines. The government does not exercise control over this land. Very typical of large portions of “govt.” land in states like Montana and Nevada. It’s on the books as a War Memorial. Much like the “Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano is considered “art” and protected, no reason this is not intended by The Knights of Columbus as a War Memorial on govt land. Stop the double standards because you hate Christ and religion.

        • Sweetredtele

          I can’t hate imaginary figures. I hate the Christ (Christ isn’t an actual proper name) as much as I hate the Minotaur. I hate what religion does, not religion per se.

        • WoodyTanaka

          1) Regardless of how it is “on the books “it is a religious image on public land and as such has to go.

          2) Serrano’s image is awesome and perhaps the second greatest depiction of that character in the history of art, after Michelangelo’s Pieta.

          3) I hate the Christ character no more than any fictional villain, like Darth Vader, say.

        • Matt D

          No, I don’t hate “Christ” anymore than I hate “Zeus” or “Buddha” or “Mohammed” or “Lord Voldemort”.
          And I don’t “hate” religions, I merely dislike “christianity” and it’s sects. Before I started seeing people like you crashing every blog I visit, erasing history, deingrating science, and supporting people holding “god hate’s fags” signs, I didn’t give a hoot about your practices or faith.

    • RobMcCune

      Its a statue on private land owned by people exercising their constitutional rights.

      The statue is on public land, which is being used under a special use permit, neither one is constitutionally protected. Everything in your sentence is wrong.

      • Free

        Touche! I will not win an argument over the legal aspect of the special use but if the government protects it’s original intent as a War Memorial than there is no argument. Put some camo on the statue. It is interesting how much controversy it raised over Jesus always.

        • RobMcCune

          Except most of the monument is a big shrine to Jesus, and makes little to no mention of the soldiers it is supposedly dedicated to.

          It is interesting how much controversy it raised over Jesus always.

          Well since you’re so interested I’ll explain it to you. There’s a group of people out there that want to place idols and graven images from their religion on everything, especially government property. One of their idols is Jesus, so they are constantly trying to put or keep him on government property, thus creating controversy.

    • Blacksheep

      I beleive it’s on public land Free.

    • Anna

      You are seeking to remove anything religious or Christian from the public arena

      Why do Christians keep promoting this falsehood? Atheists are not concerned with “the public arena.” We’re concerned about religious symbols on government property. We don’t care about them in another places. People should feel free to display statues of Jesus on private land: private homes, private schools, private churches, private stores, etc.

      I’m not even remotely offended by the sight of Jesus. I’m offended by religious people using government property to promote their religion. Individual Christians can wear crosses, put statues of Jesus on their front lawns, decorate their cars with fish symbols, or do whatever else they want. Those things don’t offend me at all.

  • Blacksheep

    What do the soldiers who fought in the 10th Mountain Division think? here’s one:

    “Arnie Funk, a 91-year-old veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, told those in attendance at Monday’s town hall meeting, “I was on the front lines from the time I arrived until the war was over,” and continued, “If they tear that down now I think that would tear me down.”

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Evil atheists want to kick puppy dogs and veterans.

    • Sweetredtele

      Something similar was said about Monte Cassino. Apparently destroying Christian Iconography is ok when Christians are doing it?

      Edit: They kicked that fucker off the mountain.

    • Matt D

      You may allow emotional statements as an excuse for breaking laws and disregarding the feelings of others if you want. I’d prefer to be a better person than that. This man may have served our country, and been a hero, but that doesn’t give him leeway to be selfish and inconsiderate of others.

  • jimmyt

    They don’t make crosses like they used too. Literally

  • sam

    I’d like to see a statue on USFS property recreating that horrible film “The Human Centipede” using L. Ron Hubbard, Jesus (in the middle), and Muhammad (pb&j).

    This shouldn’t be any problem because:

    “To the extent Big Mountain Centipede… may have provided from time to time spiritual inspiration or offense to some…the statue [would] become more of an historical landmark and a curiosity” and “Big Mountain Centipede constitutes private speech reflecting the personal views of its private owners and therefore cannot be seen by the reasonable observer as reflecting government promotion of religion”.
    This should fly, yes?

  • Sweetredtele

    Huh. They could have used the money to fix damage to churches, statues, paintings or whatever still damaged from the Italian Campaign. 1 USD= ~1500 lira in 1953. I internetted that labour wages were low back then, but I may be wrong.

    That would have been a nice gesture.

  • jaronstirling

    It should be noted that the Judge’s experience has NOT been in the field of Constitutional law. His experience is in healthcare law (malpractice, insurance, etc).

    Is it really a wonder he can’t comprehend Constitutional law?

  • Tor

    Not only is it a Christian Jesus, it is a Roman Catholic Jesus (flaming heart). Why are the fundamentalists and protestants not up in arms? A littler internicene warfare is called for, I think.

  • Tainda

    Why does Big Mountain Jesus have a strawberry on his chest?

    Or am I looking at it wrong?

    • Matt D

      Apparently, it’s a subspecies of Jesus, known as the Roman Catholic Jesus (flaming heart).

  • Braininajar

    I’m as atheist as they come, but I would like to throw something out here. I am very familiar with that statue. Some commenters suggested that folks decorate the dude with Mardi Gras beads and the like–and that is exactly what the locals do! (His hands can also easily hold a blunt, LOL.)The statue is regarded by most as a piece of adorable, wacky folk art. You will find me with a picket sign at any protest against the 10 Commandments on public property….but an artifact like this is kind of a grey area for me. People already talk about it as being something left over from the brainlessly religious past…its very appearance is so campy, so suggestive that times have changed for the better. I and my atheist raised Montana kids would miss the dude!

    • MD

      Do you do a Mannekin Pis style dress up, with regularly scheduled costume changes? That would be fun.

      • braininajar

        My neighbor totally has a Mannikin Pis in their yard! Functional!

    • allein

      He reminds me of Buddy Jesus..

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Is that a strawberry emblem on Jesus’ dress, or a beet? What does it mean?

  • DougI

    According to the Bible incest has been going on for thousands of years so it shouldn’t be illegal because it’s traditional. A lot of stupid arguments can be made for something being legal if it’s been going on for a long time.

    Don’t expect judges to be intelligent merely for being a justice. Louis Gohmert, the dumbest guy in Congress, used to be a judge.

  • James Nimmons

    Sneaking religion where it isnt wanted is also a tradition of this country..yuk yuk

  • James Nimmons

    The statue looks like it came from any roadside flea market..

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    What giant statue of Jesus? Oh, that giant statue of Jesus? Oh that’s not a giant statue of Jesus, that’s a giant statue of a hippie wearing a snuggie. That’s called Big Mountain Snuggie Hippie, and it has been a historical landmark around here for 60 years. The WWII veterans requested it because it reminded them of the thousands of hippies in snuggies they liberated in Europe as they drove back the Nazis. It has nothing to do with a religion. Move along, nothing to see here, move along. Have a nice day on the slopes.

  • SeekerLancer

    I argued about the 9/11 cross having enough secular historical significance to belong in a museum (but as an exhibit, not as a pubic memorial) which I understand is a controversial opinion.

    However, here lies the slippery slope abuse of my argument. Christians have begun to argue that every religious symbol has historical significance even when it obviously doesn’t.

    A statue sitting on public land for 60 years doesn’t make it historical. It means it’s been breaking the law for 60 years.

  • Gus Snarp

    Maybe it’s just so tacky and tasteless that they assumed that no reasonable person could see it as anything but a joke. Of course they’d be wrong because you can always find a significant number of Christians who think even the most tacky Jesus or Mary they can find is sacred and beautiful.

  • Antinomian

    It looks like “Buddy Jesus’” not so friendly brother “I Gonna’ Slap You Jesus”.

  • Ignia

    Hmmm. Be careful on this; there are some spectacular churches, for example, that have high historical significance that I would pay for on government land.

    For example, the Jamestown Church, the oldest surviving building in the 1st British Settlement.

    Give me a few moments, and I’ll think of more, I’m sure… but I agree with preserving historical monuments.

    Maybe a simple disclaimer and explanation of historical significance would be helpful at all such contested sites.

  • CJ Klok

    To all those suggesting some form of physical destruction of this statue. No. Oh no. Absolutely not! No. To physically destroy this eyesore will just add fuel to the fire of those cretins ready to scream about their delusions of victimhood. Strategically that would be counterproductive. And based on legal basics it would be destruction of property. Thus, countering one illegal situation with another illegal action does not improve things much.

    I think this situation screams out for ridicule and mockery. Philosophical, or ideological destruction. Such actions would actually destroy the idea, the religious thought, behind the statue. Galvanizing it as a joke in the minds of people. If some wingnut judge declares this religious symbol, or any other one for that matter, in some Orwellian legal decision, as not being religious in nature, then it is open season for ridicule. Then reasonable minded citizens can use their creativity to non-destructively impose the most insolent and irreverent forms of ridicule on this visage of JC.Really turn up the offense. If the religious mother grundies bitch and whine about lack of respect for their dear symbol just refer them to the judge’s decision declaring it as non-religious.

    Just think: selling t-shirts portraying mountain JC as the creepy ski slope flasher (holding the robe open with the outstretched arms), scaring old ladies with the holy phallus – maybe he has two haloes… Or dressing him up as the mountain dooby pusher- the long hair and beard does make him a groovy hippy.

    For additional inspiration, a fantastic example is reported here: http://www.turnto23.com/news/irresistible/new-mexico-newspaper-taking-heat-for-bikini-clad-virgin-of-guadalupe-062613

    where a newspaper protrayed some catholic saint as a bikini clad party girl quaffing a monster margarita.

    And once the party poopers’ complaints rolled in the publisher responded very aptly to KOAT7-ABC TV news: “She is a cultural icon in this town, not just a religious one, which means she belongs to the whole community not just to the church,” publisher Andy Dudzik said. “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

    Indeed. It was done just right.

  • Jim Hughes

    Just a thought. Since its “not religious” might I suggest making it a really cool snowman by packing snow to cover the statue and then encasing it with ice by pouring cold water over it some cold evening. Who could POSSIBLY be insulted, its not like its religious or anything.

  • Gus

    Is it just me, or does this lawsuit just make the FFRF look petty? I mean, the statue’s been there 60 years without bothering anybody, it’s a local landmark and it was put up to honour veterans. It seems like there should be better things to fight about. Who is it actually hurting?

  • E.A. Blair

    Wouldn’t it be something if a nebulous image of Charles Darwin would appear on Big Mountain Jesus’ robe?

  • http://www.facebook.com/wjhamilton29464 William J. Hamilton

    That statue isn’t very big.

  • Patrick

    I was fortunate in ’97 to ski the Big Mountain for a week staying at Grouse Mountain Lodge with my club of 48 people by Amtrak’s Empire Builder from Milwaukee long before this controversy. On the last day, late afternoon, I skied some pines and shushed upon Jesus of the Mountain. That fence if, that’s what it is wasn’t even there. Although, I am a non-believer/ ex-catholic, I kissed its feet, took a picture and skied off. Nobody else in my club saw or even knew this statue existed as it was not that easy to find then. At the days end apres I told people in my club about the Jesus statue and again, no one knew of it. I went to my next monthly meeting with my trip photos (no digital in those days) including, the statue and everyone asked me for prints as it was quite an astonishing shot, bathed in sunshine, the sun being a rarity in Whitefish during winter. I still feel good about being the only skier in my group to happenstance upon Jesus of the Mountain.

    The statue is actually cooler than Jesus. As a taxpayer I believe that Jesus of the Mountain should stay right where it’s at. It isn’t bothering anyone except a few pinheads looking for a fight over nothing when so many other real problems in this country need addressed.

  • g l tirebiter

    simple…cancel the lease.


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