(MISSOULIAN) — WHITEFISH – A national organization of atheists and agnostics filed a lawsuit Wednesday demanding that a statue of Jesus be removed from a small parcel of federal land on the Whitefish Mountain Resort ski area.

The group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, filed the legal action in U.S. District Court in Missoula. The lawsuit follows on the heels of a Jan. 31 decision by top Flathead National Forest officials to let the statue stay, and elevates the controversial issue to new heights.

The suit names as defendants the U.S. Forest Service and Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber, who issued the decision to reauthorize a special use permit for the Knights of Columbus Council No. 1328, whose members maintain the statue and lease the site. The permit lasts 10 years

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