Flathead Region

Nov 29, 2012 2:04 PM by Dennis Bragg

Lawsuit over Whitefish Jesus statue allowed to continue

A U.S. District Court judge is allowing the lawsuit over the statue of Jesus Christ on Big Mountain near Whitefish to continue, now that a Wisconsin-based group has shown that it has a Montana member who objects to the monument.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been fighting over the future of the 57-year old statue for more than a year.

When the group lost its effort to convince the U.S. Forest Service to deny a new permit for the statue, it filed suit against the Forest Service, and the Catholic organization Knights Of Columbus, which erected the monument.

FFRF maintains the statue is really a religious shrine, and is illegal on public property, rejecting arguments that it's a historic monument to World War II soldiers.

However, the Foundation was forced to produce evidence it had members in Montana who objected to the statue to prove that it had "standing" to bring the suit.

The group filed an affidavit from Flathead County resident William Cox, who says he skis at Whitefish Mountain resort and considers the statue to be religious and offensive.

Now, Judge Dana Christensen has 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.

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