American Atheists sue to stop the erection of a 9/11 memorial cross at Ground Zero
On September 12, 2012 At 12:55 am
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The American Atheists filed a law suit against the 9/11 museum in an effort to stop the erection of a 9/11 cross stating that the cross has no place as a memorial for the victims of 9/11 because they came from various religious and no religious backgrounds.
“It is important that it not be displayed to the exclusion of everyone else,” said David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, which first filed suit in July 2011. “This case is about inclusion, it is not about the elimination of religion, it is about the inclusion of everyone.”
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum wants the cross, found in the Twin Towers' rubble, because they believe it symbolizes a source of hope, comfort, and recovery from the 9/11 attacks.
This case against the museum, which allegedly uses tax-payer dollars, has become important for both the religious and non-religious.
Conservative religious groups, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, consider the case an attack on Christians and filed an amicus brief in support of the cross.
A legal expert considers the American Atheist’s lawsuit absurd.
“I think the odds of a court ordering the cross removed are literally zero,” said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal analyst. “The museum is not building a place for religious worship, they are preserving a historical relic that was meaningful to a great many people and part of the story of 9/11.”
Toobin pointed out other government-funded museums display religious works of art and said, “When the government is surveying a historic development, the government does not have to exclude religions images and artifacts from its displays.”
Frank Silecchia, a construction worker, discovered the 17-foot cross, made of a steel T-beam, commonly used in the Twin Towers, in the debris as he assisted with clean up and recovery at Ground Zero. It is this steel T-beam, from the Twin Towers debris, that Silecchia, the museum, and others wish to erect.
Both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie play an important role in deciding what goes in to the ground zero memorial display, but the U. S. District Court of Manhattan is involved and has not made a decision on the case yet.
No one from the museum responded for comment on the case concerning the cross, but the museum opened last year on September 12, a day after the memorial of those lost in the attack on the World Trade Center.
In documents submitted to the court, the museum defends the inclusion of the cross, saying that “the 9/11 Museum is an independent nonprofit corporation. Its curators’ decisions to display particular objects, such as the Artifact, in the Museum are not state actions to which Constitutional protections apply.”
In the same documents, the museum argues that even if constitutional protections apply, “there is no legal authority for the proposition that a museum is prohibited from displaying an item with historical, cultural or artistic significance merely because that item also has religious significance.”
Silverman rejects that argument. “The argument that this is not a religious symbol is asinine and arrogant,” he says. “They want 9/11 to appear to be an attack on Christianity, and it was not.”
After Silecchia, the construction worker, and the Rev. Brian Jordan, a priest who ministered to firefighters and emergency responders at ground zero, found about the plans for a memorial at ground zero, they pushed for a cross to be included. Jordon admitted that the T-beam, which he calls a cross, came from the rubble of the Twin Towers, but apparently he feels the "cross" makes the ground sacred.
“First of all, it is an artifact of ground zero,” Jordan told the Irish Echo, a small publication in New York, in 2002. “And secondly, it is sacred ground, for God’s sake.”
Jordan declined interview requests, saying in an e-mail that “after a careful period of reflection, I have decided not to make any public comment at this time.”
In the same interview, Jordan argued that the reason it should be included is because most of the victims were Christians – “the plurality of which were Catholic,” Jordan said. The cross was first displayed near the edge of ground zero, until on October 5, 2006, the cross was moved to St. John’s Church, where it sat on the corner of Barclay and Vesey streets.
Jordan’s efforts for the cross’ inclusion were successful, when on July 23, 2011, Jordan blessed the cross at a ceremony in Zuccotti Park before it was transported into its permanent setting in the museum.
“After a 10-year journey of faith, the World Trade Center Cross has finally found its home,” Jordan said in a statement at the time.
According to CNN, all parties of a budgetary dispute enter into a "memorandum of understanding," late Monday, which allows for the construction of the museum project.
"My goal during this period has been to get construction on the museum restarted," said Bloomberg, who is chairman of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Foundation. "This agreement ensures that it will be restarted very soon and will not stop until the museum is completed."
However, sources report nothing more on the American Atheist case concerning excluding the cross from the memorial site.
Accordingly, 3000 people, from a variety of backgrounds, died that day. Their names are inscribed on two bronze memorial plates surrounding two square fountains, which flow into granite pools.