Press Release

Future of World War II Memorial in Court’s Hands Becket defends popular “Big Mountain Jesus” memorial against group demanding its removal

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Washington, D.C. – Moments ago, Becket defended “Big Mountain Jesus,” a World War II statue in Montana honoring soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the Alps of Italy.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will determine whether 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 was installed in 1954 by the Knights of Columbus, who worked with veterans from the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division to commemorate their comrades who died fighting for our freedom.  The statue’s fate is now in question after an atheist group from Wisconsin sued the government for its removal.

“The statue is an important, cherished part of local history at Big Mountain,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel of Becket. “Intentionally modeled after the statues soldiers encountered in the Alps during World War II, the monument honors those who lost their lives far from home. You can’t censor history just because it includes religious meaning to some.”

Becket represents the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, and in 2013 won the case in the trial court. Local support for the monument is overwhelming, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation continues to insist from its perch in Wisconsin that the Montana statue must be removed, claiming it is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the Forest Service.

“The statue stands in the middle of the ski resort and is just one of many examples of private speech permitted by the Forest Service on public land. The Forest Service is no more endorsing religion than it is endorsing the speech by the ski resort on the same public land.” said Senior Counsel Eric Baxter.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund 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.”