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Court agrees with Becket—Protects World War II Monument From Atheist Attack

8/31/2015

Court agrees with Becket—Protects World War II Monument From Atheist Attack

Popular 60-year-old “Big Mountain Jesus” war memorial can remain standing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, a Court agreed with the Becket Fund that a historical World War II memorial affectionately called “Big Mountain Jesus” by locals can remain standing in the ski slopes near Kalispell, Montana. The 60-year-old statue, located in the Flathead National Forest, honors soldiers who fought against the Nazis in the Alps of Italy.  Lawyers at the Becket Fund defended the memorial against a Wisconsin-based militant atheist group demanding its removal and claiming that the mere presence of the statue violated the First Amendment.

“Today’s decision rejects the idea that history and the First Amendment ought to be enemies,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to use the First Amendment to erase Big Mountain Jesus from memory, even though it is, as the Court recognized, a crucial part of the history of Montana. Thank goodness for common sense.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the popular memorial can remain atop a Montana ski slope where it has stood without controversy for more than 60 years (see video). The monument, modeled after the statues soldiers encountered in the Alps during World War II, was erected in 1954 by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that worked with veterans from the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division to commemorate their comrades who died fighting for our freedom.

“Does a statue standing alone in the forest establish an official state religion? Today the Ninth Circuit emphatically said no.” said Senior Counsel Eric Baxter. “The Court rightly rejected Freedom From Religion Foundation’s radical idea that a privately-owned memorial standing in the middle of a ski resort violates the Constitution.” 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at mskea@becketfund.org or 202.349.7224.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings inHolt v. HobbsandHosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”