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Big Jesus statue on mountain is target of atheist lawsuit

Posted at 11:12 PM, Nov 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-29 23:22:02-05

MONTANA (WTVR)—The lawsuit over a statue of Jesus Christ on a mountain near a popular ski slope will now move forward, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana ruled Thursday.

The statue is known as “Big Mountain Jesus,” and his perch is on federal land. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been fighting over the future of the 57-year old statue for more than a year. The group lost its attempt to have the U.S. Forest Service forego issuance of a new permit for the statute to the Knights of Columbus, who erected it. 

In turn, the group filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus. The atheist group feels the religious statue on federal lands is in violation of the constitutional principle which separates church and state.

The lawsuit will continue now that a member of the FFR, William Cox,  has publicly identified himself as a Montana resident, who skies at the Whitefish Mountain resort, and who considers the statue to be offensive.

The group states in the suit that the statue is a religious shrine, and is therefore illegal on public property. Others argue that the statue was a historic monument to World War II soldiers.

However, the Foundation was forced to produce evidence it had members

KRTV affiliate reported that Judge Dana Christensen  ruled that’s “sufficient to confer standing,” allowing the lawsuit to proceed, since Cox would would “have standing to sue in his own right.”

The case is set to go to trial in March.