World War II Memorial May Get Booted from National Forest

Liberty Alerts, Liberty Counsel

The Knights of Columbus (KOC) has been ordered by the United States Forest Service to take down a World War II Memorial that includes a statue of Jesus erected in 1953 in the Flathead National Forest. The KOC, which erected and maintained the memorial, has a permit that has to be renewed every ten years in order to place the statue on a 25’ by 25’ plot of land leased from the Forest Service. In their recent attempt to renew, the U.S. Forest Service denied the permit and demanded the memorial be removed, stating that the statue violates the First Amendment Establish Clause. The KOC appealed the denial of the permit renewal and is prepared to take further action to protect this historical landmark honoring war veterans.

There are serious concerns that moving the statue would cause damage or even destroy it. The memorial has been a part of the local community for nearly 60 years and honors millions of people who were killed because of their faith. The KOC has to submit a detailed plan by December, explaining how it will remove the statue. Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, supports the memorial and has also asked the U.S. Forest Service to reconsider its decision.

“When I visited it earlier this year, I saw first-hand that this memorial is an irreplaceable part of our state’s history and a unique and colorful part of the local culture,” said Rehberg. “The Forest Service’s denial of the lease defies common sense. Using a tiny section of public land for a war memorial with religious themes is not the same as establishing a state religion. That’s true whether it’s a cross or a Star of David on a headstone in the Arlington National Cemetery, an angel on the Montana Vietnam Memorial in Missoula or a statue of Jesus on Big Mountain. The Forest Service is just flat wrong to deny this lease on those grounds, and I’m working hard to get them to do the right thing.”

The statue was erected as a memorial to all the World War II vets that came home to Montana, and it was supported by the Mountain division of the military. Many of these veterans saw similar statues as a comfort and a sign of hope while they were stationed in Europe during WWII. Thus, this statue was selected because of its historical importance, to remember those who fought in the war and to give hope for the families of those who did not return home alive.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “To require the removal of the statue of Jesus war memorial after nearly 60 years without any complaint is ridiculous. The U.S. Forest Service should immediately reverse its decision and grant the permit. To single out this statue because of its religious viewpoint likely violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.”

Used with permission of Liberty Counsel.