Lifestyle & Belief

Atheist group files lawsuit over "World Trade Center Cross" at 9/11 museum site


Workers prepare the World Trade Center cross to be moved into its permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial Museum after a blessing ceremony on July 23, 2011 in New York City. The cross is an intersecting steel beam discovered in the World Trade Center rubble which served as symbol of spiritual recovery in the aftermath of 9/11.


Mario Tama

An atheist group on Wednesday sued over the inclusion of steel beams in the shape of a cross, dubbed the "World Trade Center Cross," in the exhibit at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York, ABC News reported:

Jane Everhart, who is part of the atheist's suit, derided the cross as nothing more than "ugly piece of wreckage" that "does not represent anything … but horror and death."

Last weekend the 17-foot cross, which was found in the rubble of of the World Trade Center site, was given a "ceremonial blessing" by the Rev. Brian Jordan, taken from its temporary home near St. Peter's Church and lowered 70 feet into its permanent home inside the museum.

The American Atheists filed the lawsuit in Manhattan State Supreme Court, saying the museum is a public institution and shouldn't promote one specific religion over others, according to the Wall Street Journal. The lawsuit asks that a judge either order the cross removed, or order that other religions and beliefs be equally represented.

According to CNN:

The "government enshrinement of the cross was an impermissible mingling of church and state," the American Atheists say in a press statement.

The lawsuit argues that including the Roman Christian-style cross at the museum site violates the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the New York State Constitution, according to USA Today.

"Many of American Atheists' members have seen the cross, either in person or on television, and are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them through the power of the state," the complaint states. The group wants a nonreligious exhibit included if the cross isn't removed.

In a statement, the Memorial President Joe Daniels said the mission of the museum is to tell the history of 9/11 through artifacts that relate to that day such as the cross, according to Reuters:

"This steel remnant became a symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at ground zero, as well as for people around the world. In the historical exhibition, the cross is part of our commitment to bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the story of 9/11 in a way nothing else can," Daniels said in the statement.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal advocacy group, slammed the lawsuit and said it would support the placement of the cross at Ground Zero, according to the Washington Post.

“This is another pathetic attempt to rewrite the Constitution and rewrite history by removing a symbol that has deep meaning and serves as a powerful remembrance to that fateful attack nearly 10 years ago,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ told the Law Blog.

The atheist group said it had previously requested of the September 11 Memorial and Museum that it allow them to display their own memorial next to the steel-shaped cross, possibly in the form of an atom or an American flag, to be a symbol of the "500 non-religious Americans" who were "among the victims of the 9/11 attack," ABC News reported. The group claims there was no response to their request.