Monday, August 31, 2015
Back in March of 2014, I blogged about the Establishment Clause challenge brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation against "Big Mountain Jesus." Here's a picture I took, during my own trip to enjoy the great Montana snow:
The monument, which also included a plaque dedicated to the WWII soldiers, was built and maintained by private efforts. Every 10 years the permit for the monument was renewed with the Flathead National Forest.
The FFRF lost in the District Court. Judge Dana Christensen wrote:
"To some, Big Mountain Jesus is offensive and to others it represents only a religious symbol," Chistensen wrote. "But the court suspects that most who happen to encounter Big Mountain Jesus, it neither offends nor inspires."
He said that to many the statue "serves as a historical reminder of those bygone days of sack lunches, ungroomed runs, rope tows, T-bars, leather ski boots, and 210 cm. skis."
Well, the Ninth Circuit's ruling is just in, and Big Mountain Jesus is safe again. (The opinion is here: Download SANFRAN-#160648-v1-Ninth_Circuit_Affirmance.) Among the several factors that prompted the Court to conclude that the "endorsement test" did not require the statue's removal was this: "the flippant interactions of locals and tourists with the statue suggest secular perceptions and uses: decorating it in mardi gras beads, adorning it in ski gear, taking pictures with it, high-fiving it as they ski by, and posing in Facebook pictures[.]"
Judge Pregerson dissented.