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Big Mountain Jesus Before Ninth Circuit, Big Cross Before SCOTUS?

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on May 14, 2014 11:55 AM

For a country founded on the principle of the separation of church and state, we sure like to put giant religious imagery on hilltops whenever we get the chance -- and then we're surprised when someone complains.

The Mount Soledad saga continues, with still no word from the Supreme Court as to whether cert will be granted. And now, Big Mountain Jesus will be coming up before the Ninth Circuit too. Will Mount Soledad dictate the fate of Big Mountain Jesus?

Big Mountain Cross a/k/a Mount Soledad

We've covered the progress of the Mount Soledad cross extensively (see our Related Resources below), but here's a refresher. There's a giant cross on a hill in San Diego that is a World War I memorial. It's stirred up controversy for 25 years, and has been up and down the appellate road, and is now parked at the Supreme Court where we are all wondering whether cert will be granted.

The last ruling was made by a district court effectively saying that the cross had to come down, but stayed the order pending appeals. The ruling came after the Ninth Circuit held that the presence of the cross "presently configured and as a whole, primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause."

The case has been distributed for conference on May 15, but on May 5th, a response was requested. We'll keep you posted as we await a decision from SCOTUS.

Big Mountain Jesus

And now, we have Big Mountain Jesus, who stands six-feet tall atop a seven-foot pedestal, on Big Mountain in Flathead National Forest in Montana. The problem? The land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, according to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

In 1953, the Knights of Columbus erected the shrine, and every ten years, the Flathead National Forest renews the permit, according to The Christian Post. The Freedom from Religion Foundation challenged the presence of the shrine, and in June of last year a district judge dismissed the claims. Now, the case is being appealed to the Ninth Circuit, but with Mount Soledad precedent, barring distinguishing facts, we don't see how the shrine can remain.

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