Church-State Issues in Montana

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based non-profit organization, exists “for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.”  FFRF’s website lists nearly one dozen ongoing lawsuits to which it is a party.  One of its current challenges involves a statue of Jesus Christ on federal property in Montana. 

The statue, a devotional shrine placed by the Knights of Columbus, is located on Big Mountain in Flathead National Forest.  FFRF claims the shrine is illegal and its “continued presence…violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”  FFRF has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, seeking removal of the shrine.  In a recent opinion, the Court decided that FFRF does in fact have standing to bring the Establishment Clause challenge.

FFRF indicates that this challenge is its second in Montana.  In 2004, FFRF challenged public funding of the Montana Faith Health Cooperative, and won.