- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2014

Montana’s attorney general is digging in and says the state will not back down in a fight with atheists that’s winding through the courts over a 6-foot-tall Jesus statue that has stood at the Whitefish Mountain Resort for decades.

The statue is technically on U.S. Forest Service property.

Attorney General Tim Fox, along with the American Legion, filed an amicus brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is based in Wisconsin.

Mr. Fox said he wants the court to keep in place a federal judge’s previous ruling that lets the U.S. Forest Service give another 10-year permit for the statue to stay in its present location, The Associated Press reported.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Montanans and Americans would strongly oppose removing the memorial and all it represents,” Mr. Fox said, AP reported.

The statue’s been at its ski resort location since the 1950s, when the Knights of Columbus placed it there. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said in his August ruling that the statue could stay because it was used more for photograph opportunities among tourists and as a meeting place for skiers, than for any type of religious activity, AP said.

The Freedom From Religious Foundation argued otherwise and filed a complaint with an appellate court. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the group’s co-president, said the attorney general’s move toward a court battle is a disappointment — yet hardly surprising.

“It’s par for the course with public officials these days,” she said, AP reported. “It’s increasingly common for politicians to unite with religion and fight our lawsuits. They should be defending our secular Constitution.”