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Jesus statue at Whitefish Mountain Resort vandalized

by Daniel McKay
Whitefish Pilot | July 16, 2020 1:00 AM

The Jesus statue that sits atop Chair 2 at Whitefish Mountain Resort recently was vandalized.

The statue was found Monday morning with brown painted skin tones and holding flags that read “Rise Up” and “#BLM,” according to a photo posted to Facebook, seemingly making reference to the Black Lives Matter movement.

By Monday afternoon the flags were gone, but the paint remained.

The resort on Monday released a short statement confirming the statue had been vandalized, adding the resort “strongly disapproves of vandalism.”

Resort spokesperson Riley Polumbus said she’s guessing the incident took place sometime over the weekend, and resort employees driving by over the last few work days hadn’t noticed a change to the statue.

“We certainly have some work where you’re driving up the mountain and you see it, but no one had seen anything,” she said.

Flathead National Forest Public Information Officer Lauren Alley confirmed the Forest Service learned of the vandalism on Monday, but did not yet have information on whether the incident is being investigated.

Polumbus added the Knights of Columbus organization originally installed the statue and provides annual care to clean it. The group will be assessing the damage soon, she noted.

The statue took its spot on Big Mountain in 1954 to honor World War II veterans and members of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.

The statue was previously at the center of a lawsuit.

In 2015 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the statue was not conceived or funded by the government or government officials, despite being located on public land.

That decision upheld a 2013 decision that dismissed a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which objected to the statue on the basis that its presence on public land violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.