A veterans memorial known as the “Big Mountain Jesus” honors World War II soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and stands tall atop Big Mountain in the Flathead National Forest. But one group wanted to get rid of the memorial because of its religious nature. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.
After World War II, soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division sought to honor their fallen brothers who were lost while fighting in some of the roughest terrain in Europe.
The memorial is a six-foot tall figure of Jesus in the style of religious shrines they had seen on battlefields in Europe. The Knights of Columbus in Kalispell, Montana erected this veteran’s memorial, known casually as “Big Mountain Jesus.” It stood without complaint for more than 60 years atop Big Mountain in the Flathead National Forest.
One group wanted to knock the memorial down. They sued the U.S. Forest Service for permitting its presence on top of Big Mountain. First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the State of Montana and the roughly 2.4 million members of The American Legion. We asked the court to preserve the Tenth Mountain Division Veterans Memorial.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the memorial is constitutional. The court explained that the Constitution does not require the government to purge cultural or historic symbols from the public square merely because they are religious.
Veterans should be given wide latitude in determining how they choose to honor their fallen brothers in arms. And, if these veterans choose religious symbolism as part of their memorials, the government’s response should be one of respectful neutrality.