Cranford, NJ—American Atheists announced that it is filing an appeal against a March 29 ruling that including the World Trade Center (WTC) Cross in the WTC Memorial’s Historical Exhibit is not a state action endorsing religion.
The judge on the case, Deborah Batts, wrote in her ruling that “the Cross does not create excessive entanglement between the state and religion” and that the Cross has “a secular purpose” as an “artifact,” rather than a religious symbol.
“What could possibly be more religious than a cross? It has the name ‘Jesus’ carved in it,” said David Silverman, President of American Atheists. “Because the Cross is undeniably Christian, its inclusion in the taxpayer-funded WTC Memorial is an unconstitutional government endorsement of Christianity. Our government is bound by the First Amendment to remain neutral; it may not show preference to one belief system over another. We deserve equal representation. They can allow every religious position to put in a symbol of equal size and stature in the Memorial, or they can take it all out, but they don’t get to pick and choose. It’s unconstitutional and it’s un-American.”
The World Trade Center Cross, also known as the Ground Zero Cross, is a cross-shaped pair of steel beams found in the ruins of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Many Americans see the steel beams as a Christian cross and believe its survival was miraculous. A Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, Father Brian Jordan, spoke over the Cross and declared it to be “a symbol of hope … [a] symbol of faith … [a] symbol of healing.”
“If this is not a religious symbol, what is? What would have to be different about the Cross for it to count as a religious symbol that it doesn’t already have? The answer is nothing,” said Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director. “It is our position that the Cross is undoubtedly a religious symbol. It does not belong in a publicly funded memorial unless other groups, including atheists, also have the equal right to display their respective symbols. If this is not permitted, the Cross must be removed, as well. We understand that the Cross brings comfort and hope to Christians. We don’t wish to take that away from them, but this is about equality.”
American Atheists is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Cranford, New Jersey, that advocates for the complete separation of religion and government, defends the civil rights of atheists, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. Founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, American Atheists celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
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Keywords: American Atheists, 9/11, September 11, memorial cross, 9/11 Cross, World Trade Center, Ground Zero Cross, separation of church and state, atheism, religion, faith