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Jesus statue can stay on Montana mountain, judge rules

A Montana judge says a 6-foot-tall statue of Jesus that was placed on federal land on Big Mountain near Whitefish nearly 60 years ago can remain.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled the Flathead National Forest can re-issue a 10-year permit for the statue installed on the ski hill by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's organization.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sued in February 2012, arguing the statue's placement on leased public land violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from making any law regarding an establishment of religion.

Christensen ruled Monday that the statue does not convey to a reasonable informed observer that the government, rather than a private party, endorses Christianity over any other faith or the absence of faith.

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