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9th Circuit hears arguments for, against ‘Big Mountain Jesus’

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

July 8, 2015, Missoulian

Eric Baxter, representing the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argued the case on behalf of the Knights of Columbus and four Kalispell residents. He reminded the judges that the only way to see the statue is to enter the private resort, purchase a lift ticket, choose a particular run and go off that run to find it past a stand of trees.

“There’s no particular reason to stop there unless you want to look at the statue,” he said.

If the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit is successful, he argued, it would in fact constitute a violation of freedom of speech.

“The Knights’ speech is private speech and to target the Knights themselves because of the nature of that speech would be discrimination in violation of the Constitution,” Baxter said.