Press Release

Court Agrees with Becket— Protects World War II Memorial From Atheist Attack Popular 60-year-old “Big Mountain Jesus” war memorial can remain standing

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Moments ago, a Court agreed with Becket that a historical World War II memorial affectionately called “Big Mountain Jesus” by locals can remain standing in the ski slopes near Kalispell, Montana. The 60-year-old statue, located in the Flathead National Forest, honors soldiers who fought against the Nazis in the Alps of Italy.  Lawyers at Becket defended the memorial against a Wisconsin-based militant atheist group demanding its removal and claiming that the mere presence of the statue violated the First Amendment.

“Today’s decision rejects the idea that history and the First Amendment ought to be enemies,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at Becket. “Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to use the First Amendment to erase Big Mountain Jesus from memory, even though it is, as the Court recognized, a crucial part of the history of Montana. Thank goodness for common sense.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the popular memorial can remain atop a Montana ski slope where it has stood without controversy for more than 60 years (see video). The monument, modeled after the statues soldiers encountered in the Alps during World War II, was erected in 1954 by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that worked with veterans from the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division to commemorate their comrades who died fighting for our freedom.

“Does a statue standing alone in the forest establish an official state religion? Today the Ninth Circuit emphatically said no.” said Senior Counsel Eric Baxter. “The Court rightly rejected Freedom From Religion Foundation’s radical idea that a privately-owned memorial standing in the middle of a ski resort violates the Constitution.” 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in  Holt v. Hobbs  and  Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”