International Family of The Year

Religious Freedom Award

Throughout history there have been those who have desired to take away the right to religious liberty of people of faith.

As a one-time award for this fraternal year, two Knights of Columbus councils are being recognized for having sponsored programs designed to protect the religious freedom of people in their communities. We are pleased to honor their efforts at this convention, and we hope that their example will serve as an inspiration to other councils.

Religious Freedom Award (Tie)

In 1945, members of Kalispell Council 1328 in Kalispell, Montana, erected a statue of the Lord Jesus on Big Mountain, overlooking the Flathead Valley. The statue is as a war memorial, which honors the service of the 10th Mountain Division in the Second World War. Recently, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) petitioned the Forest Service to have the statue removed. In July 2011, the Forest Service rejected the Knights’ request to renew a permit for the statue, and they ordered that a plan for removal be submitted by December 31, 2011. The Knights of Columbus organized a grassroots campaign to preserve the memorial. The Knights worked with their Congressman and other community organizations, including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, to ensure that the will of the majority was respected. The Forest Service subsequently reversed its ruling to allow the statue to stay on Big Mountain. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit, which is pending. These Knights’ efforts to protect the war memorial have received local and national media attention. This program was also featured in the February 2012 issue of Columbia (“Saving Jesus in Montana”).

Religious Freedom Award (Tie)

For the past forty-five years, Our Lady Queen of Peace Council 6247 in Pitman, New Jersey, has owned and maintained a “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner. The banner is displayed prominently over Main Street in a downtown shopping district. In December 2011, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) launched a campaign to have the banner removed. They contended that the placement of a religious banner over a public city street was improper, and they proposed that an offensive atheist banner be erected in its place. Our Lady Queen of Peace Council mobilized a large scale grassroots campaign to defend the placement of the sign. They distributed yard signs and promotional literature to local residents and small business owners. They worked with local media, government officials, parishes, other Knights of Columbus councils, the New Jersey State Council, and the Supreme Council. This campaign attracted attention from the national media, and it offered a powerful public witness.