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St. Paul Jesus statue will stay

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After a two-year battle with the city, St. Paul homeowner Tuan Pham will keep his 17-foot tall white-marble statue of Jesus right where it stands, overlooking the Mississippi River.

Fox 9 reports the city settled with Pham before a lawsuit could go to court.

An anonymous complaint prompted the city to ask Pham to remove the statue because of its close proximity the bluff line. The city requires a setback of at least 40 feet from the bluffline and the statue was erected about 10 feet away.

The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals denied his request for a variance, so Pham appealed the decision, which was also denied in 2011, according to a Pioneer Press report.

Fox 9 says a city council member's comment about religious statues on the bluff during the council meeting where the appeal was denied created grounds for a civil rights lawsuit.

"In our view, this case wasn't about bluff setback," attorney James Magnuson told Fox 9. "This case was about the right for a citizen to worship as he chose."

Fox 9 says the settlement came thanks to legal help from the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Pham, a fifth-generation Roman Catholic, emigrated from Vietnam with his wife and 10 children in 1980. A Star Tribune report said Pham worked on the early construction of the 4-ton replica of the Christ of Vung Tau statue and imported it in three pieces.
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