Action Alert

U.S. Forest Service seeks public comments on proposal to reauthorize Knights of Columbus special use permit to maintain shrine

Make public comment against federal Jesus shrine

Dear FFRF'er:

We need your continued help to remove a shrine to Jesus from Big Mountain on Flathead National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service, at FFRF's request, had agreed not to renew a no-cost lease to a Catholic group to erect a statue to Jesus on Big Mountain in the Flathead National Forest in Montana. This violation has been going on since the mid-1950s. It has uniquely benefited the aims of the Knights of Columbus, a wealthy, conservative Roman Catholic men's club.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., recently intervened, and the Forest Service began back-pedaling. This week, the U.S. Forest Service announced a "public comment" period, which runs through Dec. 8, 2011, on whether to continue the unconstitutional lease. Read their press release here

Religious-right groups, such as Pat Robertson's ACLJ, have delightedly latched onto this issue to raise money, and are mustering their forces. We need every FFRF member to chime in and counter the religious hot-heads so reason will prevail!

Read on for further details or talking points, or contact the U.S. Forest Service now:

Official Comment Period Protocol

U.S. Forest Service
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please include “Knights of Columbus Special Use Permit Reauthorization Project” in the subject line. Emailed comments will be confirmed by return email. Only the first email from each sender will receive an email confirmation.

Mailed and faxed comments should be addressed to Project Leader Derek Milner, Tally Lake Ranger District, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT 59901; fax to (406) 758-5367.

Comments previously submitted, including by phone, will also be considered. All comments become part of the public record, and the comments, as well as the submitter’s name and address may be available for public review, in accordance with applicable law.


(or better yet, compose your own short comment):

"Do not renew your unconstitutional contract with the Knights of Columbus to keep an illegal Jesus shrine on federal property on Big Mountain at Flathead National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service has unlawfully misused federal land owned by all of us to further Roman Catholicism. This diminishes the civil and political standing of nonreligious and nonChristian Americans, and shows flagrant governmental preference for religion and Christianity. This Catholic shrine is not historic, it is a state/church violation that has gone on for too long. It is a sham and an affront to to pretend a Jesus statue honors veterans, which excludes nonChristians and atheists in foxholes."


A federal agency should not hold a vote on whether to obey the Constitution! We pointed this out in a letter to the Forest Service. FFRF also sent a representative sampling of "public comment" (i.e., vicious crank mail) to FFRF from shrine supporters. Read here (scroll down to the bottom of the news release). The inevitable consequence, when government sides with one religion over another or over non-religion, is persecution of the majority by the minority.

The insensitive Rep. Rehberg went so far as to create a link,, which takes people to his Congressional website! This week he also introduced legislation to swap private land from the resort atop Big Mountain for the 625 feet of federal land underneath the shrine! (Read his press release here.)

Adding insult to constitutional injury is the after-the-fact justification that the Jesus statue is now magically a "war memorial" to WWII veterans. The facts show the intent by at least some local Knights of Columbus members was, in fact, was to recreate the experience a few Catholic soldiers from Kalispell, Mt., enjoyed during the war of seeing Jesus shrines in the Alps! We are particularly calling on veterans and "atheists in foxholes" to protest the affront of calling a devotional Catholic shrine a memorial to all veterans! (If you are a vet, please mention it in your comment.)

The Forest Service announced it "and the Montana State Historic Preservation Office has concurred that the statue is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, based on its historic association with the early development of the Big Mountain ski area."

The concrete statue is one of thousands made from a mold, which appear on Knights of Columbus property (where they belong) around the country. It is a historically long state/church violation, not a historic treasure. (We don't consider 56-year-olds as "historic"!) Nor does a claim by a state historical office trump the Constitution.

Thank you for your help!

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