Flathead Region

Feb 1, 2012 10:59 AM by Dax VanFossen

Whitefish Jesus statue decision sparks challenge

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) announced in a press release on Tuesday that it plans to sue the U.S. Forest Service over what they believe to be the unconstitutional presence of a statue of Jesus Christ on Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The FFRF states that it has prepared a legal complaint and plans to file it in Montana federal court soon.

This reaction comes after Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber announced on Tuesday that he was reauthorizing a special use permit for the Knights of Columbus so that the statue can stay for the next decade.

Weber said, "I understand the statue has been a long-standing object in the community since 1955, and I recognize that the statue is important to the community for its historical heritage based on its association with the early development of the ski area on Big Mountain."

Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, says that the FFRF will not let this slide.

"The U.S. Forest Service has unlawfully misused federal land owned by all of us to further Christianity in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular. This diminishes the civil and political standing of nonreligious and non-Christian Americans, and shows flagrant governmental preference for religion and Christianity."


(January 31, 2012) The statue of Jesus near Whitefish can stay, despite recent controversy over the placement of the statue on federal land.

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber announced on Tuesday that he is reauthorizing a special use permit for The Knights of Columbus Council No. 1328 of Kalispell, Montana for the display of the statue.

The statue is located on a small parcel of federal land within the Whitefish Mountain Resort permit boundary at Big Mountain in northwestern Montana.

In a press release, Weber states that the permit is reauthorized for ten years and is for the "display of a statue of Jesus Christ on a 25 foot by 25 foot parcel of land near the top of Chair Two at Whitefish Mountain Resort."

Weber said, "I understand the statue has been a long-standing object in the community since 1955, and I recognize that the statue is important to the community for its historical heritage based on its association with the early development of the ski area on Big Mountain."

The decision was reached using an environmental analysis process for Categorical Exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Flathead National Forest received more than 95,000 public comments from October 19 to December 8, 2011. The comments did not identify substantive concerns related to environmental conditions.

Once the new permit is returned to the Flathead National Forest by the Kalispell Knights of Columbus with signature and payment, it will be signed by the Forest Supervisor and will remain in effect for the next ten years.

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