A judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the “Big Mountain Jesus” statue, a monument featuring a likeness of Jesus that sits atop a Montana mountain. According to the Daily Inter Lake, the statue was commissioned as a tribute to World War II veterans more than 60 years ago. The constitutionality of the statue — and its location on federal U.S. Forest Service land — had been challenged in court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
This most recent ruling does not represent the first time a court has said that the statue can remain on the mountain. A similar ruling was issued in 2013 by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen. The Freedom From Religion Foundation then challenged that decision, claiming the statue violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
This ruling against the Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed that the statue could remain because it is not associated with government. Although it’s technically on public land, the property consists of a private ski resort owned by a private organization. “There is nothing in the statue’s display or setting to suggest government endorsement,” the decision reads. “The 12-foot-tall statue is on a mountain, far from any government seat or building, near a commercial ski resort and accessible only to individuals who pay to use the ski lift. The statue’s plaque communicates that it is privately owned and maintained — it did not sprout from the minds of [government officials] and was not funded from [the government’s] coffers.”