November 24, 2011

"We wish the people of Wisconsin would take care of their own business and leave us, and [Big Mountain Jesus], totally alone."

A 50-year-old statue in Montana, put up by the local Knights of Columbus to honor soldiers who had seen statues like this while serving in Italy in World War II, is attacked as unconstitutional by the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin.

The monument is also a local landmark:
“People say, ‘Meet at Jesus at 11.’ Skiers take pictures with him, wrap him up in clothing and put Mardi Gras beads on him.”
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation says: “It’s terribly important that the religious right not be allowed to manipulate this situation.” (But her organization picked the fight!)

Here's the  “Save Big Mountain Jesus Statue” Facebook page, which links to this article that pre-dates the current controversy:
“I was out on the mountain, kind of exploring,” [Dan Graves] recalled, taking a break from work last week to recount his first encounter with the statue. “Of course, through the fog and the haze, I saw Christ, with his outstretched hands.”

“It was a little surreal,” Graves added.

Anyone who skis or hikes or bikes along Big Mountain’s slopes has likely had a similarly jarring encounter: coming around a bend near the top of Chair 2 to find the life-like concrete rendering of Jesus Christ, gazing out over Whitefish Lake and the Flathead Valley beyond, from a perch above where the trail splits into Ed’s Run, Hibernation and Hellroaring.
So the placement in the landscape heightens the spirituality of the encounter with the religious symbol, but I think removing the statue is not necessary to comply with the Establishment Clause. I go back to what Justice Breyer wrote in one of the 10 Commandments cases that the Supreme Court decided in 2005. Breyer — it's important to note — was the only member of the Court in the majority in both cases.

Justice Breyer quoted the 1963 school prayer opinion written by Justice Goldberg: "[U]ntutored devotion to the concept of neutrality can lead to invocation or approval of results which partake not simply of that noninterference and noninvolvement with the religious which the Constitution commands, but of a brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular and a passive, or even active, hostility to the religious."

And Breyer concluded that taking down the old stone monument in Texas would "exhibit a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions" and "encourage disputes concerning the removal of longstanding depictions of the Ten Commandments from public buildings across the Nation," which would "create the very kind of religiously based divisiveness that the Establishment Clause seeks to avoid."

Big Mountain Jesus is a 50-year-old part of the landscape, so it's probably a good idea to take Justice Breyer's advice seriously and ski clear of divisiveness and a brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular. 


TMink said...

What next? Sue people for the plastic Jesus on their dashboard?

"I don't care if it rains or freezes . . ."

Trey - Happy Thanksgiving!

Skyler said...

Speaking as an atheist, I find these attempts to destroy all vestiges of religion frightening. Live and let live. This will only drive the religious majority to undertake backlashes that can hurt me.

themightypuck said...

This will not stand. That statue is a landmark. Plus Butte used to be very Irish Catholic and still kinda is. St. Paddys is a mess there.

Fen said...

“It’s terribly important that the religious right not be allowed to manipulate this situation.”


Terribly important? Really?


james conrad said...

Why would anyone care what some goober from Madison Wisc thinks about anything?

n.n said...

Everyone has a faith or perspective of reality. If only one that is based on a permanent condition of limited, circumstantial evidence.

I find it odd that individuals who profess a fear of religion would embrace one that is spread through the sword, while rejecting another which is spread through voluntary acceptance. The latter established a nation which permitted the free worship of whatever faith an individual adheres to, while the former persecutes individuals who dream of physical and material instant gratification.

As for the "establishment clause", why is it only binding on Congress? The founders must have had a reason to limit its scope.

And just for fun...

Welcome to Earth, population – one: Three billion years ago sea was a single huge creature that split to form life as we know it

Less interesting than the latest speculation about origin of life is the following:

This free exchange and lack of competition meant that the ocean functioned as the ‘single mega-organism’.
The mega-organism was only broken apart when some of the cells evolved ways of producing everything they needed.

In the beginning, there was the collective, and it was liberal and progressive. Then we evolved to recognize individual dignity, and we were conservative. However, the collective persists and spreads through inculcation and exploitation of its long lost subjects.
-- An Alternate Genesis

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christopher said...

Ah yes, the "Freedom from Religion" crowd.

They'll protect the right of every individual until our culture is finally sterile and inoffensive.

edutcher said...

I think the name, "Freedom From Religion Foundation", pretty much nails it.

And the line which is the post title, I think, is a sentiment people have been voicing more and more loudly at the people who really impose their social conventions on society - the Left, not the religious Right - all the time.

PS Surprised an opinion like that came from Breyer.

PPS Wonder what outfit inspired the statue?

PPPS Skyler, you're a good man.

Semper Fi, sir.

Ralph L said...

If it isn't labelled prominently, isn't it just a big statue of a man? Why is that religious?

Carnifex said...

I got to admit the loon to rational person ratio in Madison does throw the bell curve for a loop. The non-belief of God is as much a religion as the belief. Since both must be taken as a matter of faith. Just as a believer can't prove the existence of God, so an atheist can't disprove it either.

But, when you're lying on your death bed, which one matters who is right? If you're an atheist, and wrong, its to the warm place with no sunscreen for you. If you're a believer and wrong, no harm no foul. Why not play the odds?

Regardless, if you think you can place all the parts of a car, loosely in a box, and then shake the box for a long long time, eventually you would wind up with a brand new Beemer, you're sadly mistaken. But that's what Darwinist suggest happened.

Micro-biologist are less likely to be Darwinist because they understand just how complex a cell really is. Darwin himself commented how cellular biology had the power to destroy his theory.

If I remember correctly, it takes over 200 separate mechanisms to move a flagella. Then you have mitochondria, the nucleus, the outer and inner membranes that have o be permiable to he proper materials at the proper ratios, etc...

I'm not even going to get into DNA, junk DNA, and mutations.

Bruce Hayden said...

As a traditional protestant, I am always a bit taken aback by what I see as iconage. Yet, I know that their hearts are good, so am not really opposed to the way that probably the bulk of Christians practice their religion.

I agree with Ann here, and think that this really does not violate the prohibition against establishment of a religion. Plenty of other memorials and the like put up on federal property. Most of them are probably not religious in nature. But refusing to allow a religious statute, when a non-religious monument would be acceptable would be a real infringement on the ability to practice religion.

Let me suggest a standard similar to that employed with limitations on speech - whether the limitation is content neutral. Allowing non-religious memorials, but not religious ones would seem not to be content neutral.

Anonymous said...

If taxpayer money was spent maintaining Jesus or if other religions were forbidden from putting something up, then maybe the Establishment Clause would be implicated.

But as it is, this is state located, not state supported.

SunnyJ said...

I love the intellectual dishonesty practiced by Ms Galor and her crowd. There's nothing else in the constitution they deem worthy of literal all should be a "living" document with easily manipulated meanings that suit their drama of the day.

Except the Establishment Clause...that one they are sure means no religion anywhere in the public square. Their active pursuit of removal of a religion unto itself. The Establishment Clause does not allow them to force the religion of disbelief or secularism on everyone else.

Leave it to Wisconsin to want to export it's divisiveness to others. Like the petrie dish of looks down at the experiment and says, "...If what you are showing us here is your plan for society, if this is how you think the rest of us should live, thanks but, no thanks."

Same with Wisconsin exporting it's radicalism for progressive politics, public union tyranny and Freedom From Religion. Others need only look at us through the experimental microscope to say, let's throw this out and start over.

jimbino said...

Religion needs to be nipped in the bud to avoid greater pain promised later. That's the whole idea of "nipping in the bud."

If we let religion run rampant, we might suffer the religious persecution so well known in the Dark Ages and nowadays in almost every Muslim country.

God is not great; Religion ruins everything.

Better to challenge and disable the religionists now over creches and icons than later when high explosives will be needed.

Anonymous said...

Most Wisconsinites couldn't care less if there is a Jesus statue on a mountain in Montana, non issue to most liberals. Silly waste of energy when there are so many more pressing issues.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There is a man in our area whose hobby is welding and making really large sculptures out of equipment, old machinery parts etc, on his industrial property. Neat stuff like a giant beetle made from...a VW Beetle..Dinosaurs made from cranes and traxcavators. Ants made from cement truck drums.

He owns a large swath of land which also has a rock quarry and a big mountain on the land...about 5000 ft. elevation The peak is visible for miles and miles from the highway and most roads. He built a huge cross. Probably 60 feet tall at least.

Some people, that we fondly call tourons (tourist/morons) have complained. His attitude is: "Screw is my private property. If you don't like it....keep your eyes on the road and don't look. You will never figure out how to to get to the top of the mountain anyway."

I love looking at it because it is not only an expression of his strong religious beliefs but also his independent, don't tell me what to do, streak.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Jimbino. We must protect Jews and kulaks and the Cambodians with glasses.

Anonymous said...

I thought Wisconsites were against outsiders messing with things.

Hagar said...

This is just about finding something that is really offensive to somebody - it does not matter much who or what - and then if you can force your way through, that proves you and your tribe has the longest and stiffest and can pee the farthest.

caplight said...

I didn't know that about Justice Breyer's thinking. That's why Althouse is such a good read.

Fen said...

If we let religion run rampant, we might suffer the religious persecution so well known in the Dark Ages and nowadays in almost every Muslim country.

If we let freedom of the press run rampant, we might suffer another Holocaust.

George Will: "No one ever died from reading Der Sturmer, but the culture it served caused 6 million Jews to drop dead"

Lets ban freedom of speech because, ya know, someone somewhere might get hurt.

Religion needs to be nipped in the bud to avoid greater pain promised later

Yah, that whole Judeo-Christian foundation of our body of law. Painful.

Better to challenge and disable the religionists now over creches and icons than later when high explosives will be needed.

Please. Build your own bomb to use against the "religionists". Your ignorant hatred should be lethal.

MadisonMan said...


(laugh)We just call them FIBs.

Wince said...

As articulated by Chief Justice Burger, the [Lemon] test has three parts:

First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."

With respect to Big Mountain Jesus, it's been 50 years, isn't there like a statue of limitations on that?

"Fine, it's a sculpture of limitations."

gadfly said...

I am sure that the aethiests involved here are unaware that their secularism has become a religion that is far more intense than the religiosity of Christianity.

"Separation of Church and State" is not nor has it ever been word in, or the intent of, the Constitution. Sadly, our schools no longer emphasize that most of our colonies were established because of thepersection of religious sects in Europe -- and we wanted no part of King George or his Church of England.

What is so hard to understand about "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Kev said...

(the other kev)

It's one hundred per cent of Freedom From Religion Foundation members that give the rest a bad name.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise [of religion];

This stuff is why Shakespeare wrote what he did, Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2.

Really, can anything be CLEARER than that clause of the 1st Amendment?

Paul said...

Just another brand of puritanism. And puritanism requires authoritarianism to enforce its edicts.

"Liberals" these days are intolerant and authoritarian to the core.

They are the dangerous ones.

Quaestor said...

Skyler wrote:
Speaking as an atheist, I find these attempts to destroy all vestiges of religion frightening.

Hear, hear. I wish my fellow atheists in the Freedom from Religion Foundation would just calm down. There are more vital issues than Big Mountain Jesus.

kimsch said...

People like the Freedom From Religion Foundation are not atheists, they are anti-theists. Most atheists couldn't care less if there's a cross, or a Star of David or any other religious symbol around. It's the Anti-theists, those who can't stand even the idea of a greater power that seem to take such exception to symbols.

wv: lomium

jimbino said...

Fen quotes George Will: "No one ever died from reading Der Sturmer, but the culture it served caused 6 million Jews to drop dead"

Of course the same can be said about the flush toilet.

"The rain falls on the just and the unjust," as Algore said, and Freedom of the Press is more important than the lives of 6 million Jews.

Peter V. Bella said...

First they came for the Christians. I didn't say anything...

Fen said...

Libtard: Freedom of the Press is more important than the lives of 6 million Jews

Idiot totally misses the point and then accidentily makes it for me.

Thanks for the laugh.

Unknown said...

Nouvelles Canada

Unknown said...

Nouvelles Canada

Anonymous said...

As someone who calls himself agnostic, I have to wonder: would a statue of Abraham Lincoln be allowed? Would it be allowed as art? Would it be allowed as a Civil War memorial? I suspect it would, in both cases. Well, whether you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was divine or not, he almost certainly existed as an important historical figure, and the world is a very different place than it would be if he hadn't lived.

As long as people didn't construct Big Mountain Jesus as part of an actual church on Forest Service land, I see no problem with saying that the statue is a work of art rather than an exclusively religious shrine.

Next, I'd like to see someone put up a statue of another historical figure ... How well do you suppose "Big Mountain Mohammed" would go over with all of the usual suspects?

n.n said...

The authoritarian ideologies of communism, socialism, fascism, etc., which as in Germany, Russia, China, Italy, established within secular societies, were responsible for the death, dispossession, and enslavement of people in great excess of 100 hundred million, and in less than 100 years. The only comparable tyranny was exhibited by Islamic imperialists (also authoritarian), but their achievement was realized over a period exceeding 1000 years.

This is not strictly a problem attributed to atheists, although as a group, by definition and design, their principles are inconsistent, which increases the likelihood they will exhibit unpredictable and conflicting behaviors.

The real problem is traced to authoritarian ideologies, which by design marginalize or eviscerate competing interests, whereby progressive corruption of individuals and society cannot be suitably corrected without a revolution and the loss of life which inevitably follows.

I will judge each faith by the principles it engenders. The secular faith has demonstrated a historical predisposition to denigrate individual dignity and devalue human life. It degenerates into a society which dreams of physical and material instant gratification through redistributive and retributive change. Both are principal contributors to progressive corruption of individuals and society. The decay is further exacerbated when realized through an authoritarian ideology.

Life is an exercise in risk management. To reduce the risk we need to select the right principles to guide our behavior. The source of those principles is irrelevant to anyone other than a fanatic.

n.n said...


Sure, why not.

Next to Mohammed we will erect a statue of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. Each of them realized a success weighed in the same class of tyranny. To this date, the destruction, dispossession, and enslavement of human lives that they and their inspired followers pursued remains unparalleled.

KCFleming said...

The acts of the Freedom From Religion Foundation are desperate and sad; animosity borne of uncertainty, rage against doubt, hatred against disquiet.

This they fear: the voice that calls them home.

The God-shaped hole in their lives remains unfilled by a Grand Protest, and the empty discomfort they cannot abide, trying to assuage it with ever greater acts of denial.

I wish them well. One day they may awaken, and be grateful.

Michael Haz said...

Annie Laurie Gaylor does not understand risk management.

Phil 314 said...

Better to challenge and disable the religionists now over creches and icons than later when high explosives will be needed.

Most definitely. Look what has been done in the name of God in the US. The horror of abolition, civil rights, homeless outreach, care of the poor etc. (not to mention the small daily horrors of stable families, cared for children, charitable giving)

For such social ills we should spare no expense nor withhold any weapon.

Onward non-Christian soldiers

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
X said...

hey whadaya know, attention whore demands attention. but who among us hasn't? now go annie laurie gaylor, and clamor no more.

J said...

Teabuggers love their John Wayne Jeebuss though most never bothered with the fine print of the New Testament. JC's ..fighting the John Waynes..and Custers. He's for the...natives...shoshone not the WASP honkays and yuppies

Steve Austin said...

This issue really goes beyond religion.

There is a subset of the American left that for whatever reason has decided pretty much everything of American culture the last 100 years has to go.

It could be the Jesus statue or the judge and school administrators in Morgan Hill, CA who wouldn't let the four kids wear shirts with an American flag on it to school on Cinco de Mayo day, claiming it was an offensive act.

I can't really understand the mindset. But it is like the Borg from the Star Trek show. It continues to grow and try to steamroll the rest of us.

Mitch H. said...

As an agnostic who despises aggressive. evangelical atheism, I would be willing to join a "Freedom From Atheism Foundation" if someone's up to filing the 501(c)4 paperwork.

miller said...

So just call it a statue of someone not religious (say Socrates), and call it a day.

This is a non-issue for both sides. A true Christian doesn't need a statue to remind him to do good (and to do well); an atheist with any integrity isn't going to be bothered by a statue of Jesus or Santa Claus.

SGT Ted said...

Remember when the Taliban were excoriated and condemned as cultural barbarians for destroying ancient Bhudda Statues with artillery guns?

These guys remind me of them, trying to use the legal apperatus of the State to destroy Statues of Christ. They are attacking freedom of religion to enforce their narrow views on the rest of us.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation folk need some Sensitivity and Tolerance of Others training so they will quit being such anti-Christian bigots.

reformed trucker said...

The Freedom From Religion Foundation are a bunch of intellectual hacks that couldn't reason their way out of a wet paper bag. They give the thinking atheists a bad rap.

I'm a Protestant who takes issue with religious images, but you say that's Jesus? You have photographic proof? Or is that just your opinion based on someone else's interpretation/opinion?

Next you'll wrest Occam's Razor out of context and say it's an argument against theism.

Morons. Bertrand Russell would be rolling in his grave...