Montana's attorney general says he supports keeping a 6-foot-tall statue of Jesus on U.S. Forest Service land next to a Whitefish ski hill.

Attorney General Tim Fox filed a friend-of-the-court brief Wednesday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as it considers a legal challenge by an atheist and agnostic organization.

Fox is asking the court to uphold a federal judge's August ruling that allows the Forest Service to renew a permit for the statue at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen says the statue is used more for photo opportunities and as a meeting point than for religious reflection.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the appellate court to overturn the decision, saying the statue on federal land violates the constitutional separation of church and state.