The Freedom From Religion Foundation will be suing the U.S. Forest Service over the unconstitutional presence of a Knights of Columbus shrine to Jesus in Flathead National Forest in Montana.
FFRF has readied a legal complaint and plans to file it shortly in federal court in Montana.
In an official memo released today by the US Forest Service, it announced it will reauthorize a special use permit for the Knights of Columbus to maintain a Jesus shrine in Flathead National Forest for the next decade.
The Knights of Columbus first applied for a permit for the purpose of erecting "a Statue of our Lord Jesus Christ" on the public mountain in 1953. It has sanctioned the looming presence of the six-foot statue of Jesus overlooking Big Mountain ski run since 1954.
Chip Weber, Flathead National Forest Supervisor, determined last year after complaints from FFRF and others that the religious shrine was inappropriate. But after a backlash led by U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who is campaigning for Senate, the Forest Service began back-pedaling. The Forest Service announced a "public comment" period, which ran through Dec. 8, 2011, on whether to continue the unconstitutional lease.
"A federal agency should not hold a vote on whether to obey the Constitution!" said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
"The U.S. Forest Service has unlawfully misused federal land owned by all of us to further Christianity in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular. This diminishes the civil and political standing of nonreligious and nonChristian Americans, and shows flagrant governmental preference for religion and Christianity."