HELENA — A group of atheists and agnostics argue in a new lawsuit that the U.S. Forest Service needs to boot a statue of Jesus from its mountaintop perch in Montana.
The legal challenge filed late Tuesday escalates the already fevered battle over the 57-year-old statue at Whitefish Mountain ski resort.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation argues in the lawsuit that the Forest Service is unconstitutionally sanctioning the religious statue maintained by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's group.
Several other out-of-state groups have promised to join the legal fray in support of the statue. The social conservative and Christian groups argue that the statue does not convey a government endorsement of religion.
Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg says Whitefish locals want the statue to stay.