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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The man who erected the 7-foot marble statue in his back yard, overlooking the Mississippi River, says he's heard no word from the city telling him to take it down. A City Council member tells the Star Tribune the city has not given up on what it says is an important zoning issue. The statue's owner, Tuan Pham, says he's awaiting the official letter from the city, and says he'll respond with a lawsuit.