- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - A statue of Jesus that has spent more than 60 years overlooking a northwestern Montana ski hill is there to stay as an anti-religion group says it will not appeal its case for removal.

In August, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from a group of atheists and agnostics that allowing the statue on U.S. Forest Service land violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The majority agreed that a privately owned memorial in the middle of a ski resort does not violate the constitution. A U.S. district judge found that the statue’s secular and irreverent uses outweighed its religious uses.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had until this week to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals denied a request to re-hear the case in November, according to the Daily Inter Lake (http://bit.ly/1QmtfH2).

“There was no point in bringing this to the Supreme Court with a 5-4 block,” Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said. “It’s dead in the water.”

The Knights of Columbus placed the statue on U.S. Forest Service land on Big Mountain in the mid-1950s as a memorial to World War II soldiers and it remained in place with few complaints for decades.

The Flathead National Forest decided in 2011 not to renew the 10-year permit for the statue near a run at Whitefish Mountain Resort but reversed the decision due to public outcry.

The foundation sued in 2012.

“It’s just an injustice,” Gaylor said. “All we wanted the government to do is give the shrine of Jesus back to the Knights of Columbus so it could be displayed on their own property where it belongs.”

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Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com

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