Ground Zero Cross: Unconstitutional because it exists?

In the tumultuous days following the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, workers at Ground Zero discovered a sign of … Continued

In the tumultuous days following the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, workers at Ground Zero discovered a sign of hope and comfort – a cross – two intersecting steel beams from Tower One of the World Trade Center standing in the midst of so much death and destruction.

In the decade since 9/11, the Ground Zero Cross has become a symbol of hope and healing for those who survived the terrorist attack, the families and friends who lost loved ones on that day, and the coworkers of the brave first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice.

This historical artifact of the 9/11 attacks is, lawsuit notwithstanding, going to be featured in the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Unfortunately, angry atheist syndrome has reared its ugly head again. As soon as the cross selection was announced the American Atheists organized filed suit, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The group actually claims that its members are experiencing “dyspepsia [upset stomach], symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish,” not from the devastating destruction of life caused by the terrorists on 9/11, but as a “direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional existence of the cross.” That’s not a line from a blog post, a press release, or a fundraising letter; that is the actual legal argument presented by the American Atheists in their complaint.

It doesn’t take a lawyer to realize that this is an utterly preposterous proposition.

At the ACLJ, we are taking action to defend the Ground Zero Cross.  We are preparing to file an amicus brief representing Tim Brown, a 9/11 firefighter and first responder who lost 100 hundred of his closest friends and colleagues at Ground Zero.

Our initial legal analysis of their complaint reveals that while the lawsuit argues that it is unconstitutional to “plac[e] a religious symbol of Christianity on government-owned property,” it “fail[s] to note that the cross is actually a remnant of the ruins of the Twin Towers.”

Even other atheists recognize that this is a “frivolous lawsuit.”  Susan Jacoby (a fellow On Faith contributor) on her “The Spirited Atheist” blog acknowledges that the American Atheists’ suit “misconstrues the First Amendment,” wondering whether the president of the American Atheists, David Silverman, “really believes this nonsense,” although she can’t resist a swipe at something faith-based, this time at government-funded charities with religious affiliations- which, she fails to mention, by law must segregate those funds from any used for proselytizing – that is the real First Amendment “problem.”

What’s even more disconcerting than the lawsuit itself is what some of the atheist plaintiffs are saying about a 9/11 relic that has comforted so many.  One plaintiff called the cross-shaped steel beams an “ugly piece of wreckage” that “does not represent anything . . . but horror and death.“ Another called it “offensive and repugnant. The communications director for American Atheists can’t figure out if the cross is just a “t” or a religious icon.
How can they get so physically sick and mentally ill over crossed metal beams when they deny God exists? I suspect there is something deeper at issue for these atheists but that is for another discussion.

As the head of the National September 11 Memorial Museum so aptly noted:

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.

This is what the ACLJ is defending with our brief – a monument to those who lost their lives at Ground Zero and a symbol of hope and healing for the survivors and 9/11 families.

About

Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Matthew Clark is an attorney at the ACLJ. Follow them on Twitter: @JordanSekulow and @_MatthewClark.
  • jettmd

    Christianity and those of Christian faith have helped create a nation that tolerates other beliefs. Christianity also created an environment in the Western world so that capitalism could excel. There is no doubt in my mind that Christians have helped build a society for freedom to be successful. If you doubt it, then go to countries where Christianity has been a minority religion and see the tolerance. So, it is sad to see a small group of people within our country who seem to have issues with that symbol that helped pave the way for our nation to have both tolerance of other’s beliefs and economic success which in both, they have benefited.

  • Wetcoaster

    The toleration of other beliefs you describe isn’t making much of an appearance here.
    Christianity helping capitalism succeed isn’t much of a recommendation since it promotes the concentration of money and power in the hands of a small number of arguably corrupt people and out of the hands of the American people themselves.
    The economic success of a few is a reflection on how clean they picked YOUR pocket.

  • maryannlopez260

    People should take a real good look at this countrys condition… first off they kicked God out of the schools, and now we have kids shooting kids… they kicked God out of this country and now this country is going down the drain… take a good look people and its not over yet , theres more to come… and why ,because before God protected us, now they kicked Him out….. And the cross doesnt hurt anyone , if anything it brings salvation for only those who want it…. but they need to leave us alone , cause we dont bother them… if they choose to not believe in the Almight God that is there business cause one day the bible says : We will all stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives… so peace to all who believe and dont believe… cause the day is coming and you wont be able to get away from the Lord….. so God bless you all…

  • pra1

    The cross, wether the wooden one that Christ was nailed to or the steel one from Ground Zero, represents the magnificent love of God. By it and the sacrifice made upon it, all mankind, even the atheists, are forgiven and given entrance to the glories of Heaven. Even though what the atheists are doing is wrong they will be forgiven until their last dying breath. Lets not forget that God is on our side for “if God be for us, who can be against us”. God will deal with the atheists and its our job to uphold what is True and Righteous and Holy. I say pray for the eyes of the atheists to be open and for their salvation and attack this problem as with the whole wrath of God. I say no compromise. We have let the actions of just a few dictate unholy and ungodly decisions. Enough is enough. I say to all Bible believing people – take a stand and stop this madness.

  • BE55Roberts

    Let the cross stand. It is an expression of hope. Removing it would cause pain and anguish to the families of the victims.

  • BE55Roberts

    Let this symbol of Hope stand. To remove it would cause the families of the victims dyspepsia, depression, headaches, anxiety, mental pain and anguish.

  • Chip_M

    As an atheist who supports causes like removing “under god” from the pledge, and restoring E Pluribus Unum to our money, even I think this is a bridge too far. If the cross was going to be used as THE monument to the 9/11 victims that would be offensive since not everyone who died that terrible day was a Christian, but to be used as one piece in a museum collection dedicated to the tragedy when it moved and gave hope to so many? That’s completely appropriate. If we atheists ever want to achieve equality and acceptance, this is not the way. There’s such a thing as picking our battles, and this is a terrible choice. This is the embodiment of all of our worst stereotypes – the kind of angry, belligerent, empathy-challenged atheism that doesn’t do any good for anyone. I would ask that Christians angered by this crass lawsuit to please bear in mind that this is not representative of all atheists and that many of us are disgusted by this too.

  • glenmayne

    Do a Google search for images of the “9/11 cross” . The manner in which it was displayed looks like Pat Roberson owned the Twin Towers site.

  • glenmayne

    Do a Google search for images of the “9/11 cross” . The manner in which it was displayed looks like Pat Roberson owned the Twin Towers site. It’s an overbearing display. It proclaims christian territory.

  • Chip_M

    If people had recognized some other symbol in the rubble and responded to it the same way then I’d be making the same argument in favor of its inclusion in the museum. This isn’t about how the cross has been displayed at the site, and if many people found that offensive they should have complained then. This is about how the cross will be displayed going forward in the museum, and as long as it’s not given undue prominence I don’t see any valid reason to object. AA could have expressed their reasonable concerns about that, asking that it be handled intelligently so as not to give the impression that the museum is some sort of Christian shrine, and I would hope the museum curator and organizers will be mindful of such concerns, but instead they chose to be belligerent and sue, using a pretty ridiculous argument about pain and suffering of atheists. Instead of furthering the cause of societal acceptance and equal rights for atheists, they’re doing us harm. In this case AA most certainly does not speak for me.

  • tomr7221

    The bleading heart Athiests are at it again. They believe that we care that they don’t like a cross, or the ten commandments, or their beer is warm or whatever. We have to tolerate jerks that interrupt funerals of veterans shouting their pleasure that a veteran was killed. Parents have to put up with questionable content of TV programs. May be a single parent that cannot keep tight control. Get in line behind parents and veterans. If you are sick because of a cross, I’m glad. it couldn’t happen to lower life group of people

  • tomr7221

    The bleading heart Athiests are at it again. They believe that we care that they don’t like a cross, or the ten commandments, or their beer is warm or whatever. We have to tolerate jerks that interrupt funerals of veterans shouting their pleasure that a veteran was killed. Parents have to put up with questionable content of TV programs. May be a single parent that cannot keep tight control. Get in line behind parents and veterans. If you are sick because of a cross, I’m glad.

  • tomr7221

    The bleading heart Athiests are at it again. They believe that we care that they don’t like a cross, or the ten commandments, or their beer is warm or whatever. We have to tolerate jerks that interrupt funerals of veterans shouting their pleasure that a veteran was killed. Parents have to put up with questionable content of TV programs. May be a single parent that cannot keep tight control. Get in line behind parents and veterans.

  • 2merritts

    When we Christians find something offensive on TV or the big screen, we’re told, “Don’t watch it” and “Turn the channel”. Since that makes sence, it should make sence that atheists who find the crossed steel beams offensive and sickening, should turn away from them. Nobody’s making them look at it.

  • 2merritts

    The Cross did hurt one person, and He still climbed up on it, for all who would believe.
    The Cross is not about christianity, or christians. It’s about Christ. He’s the one who died on it. Christians are just saved sinners. Christians make mistakes. Christians sin by choice too. Not everone who claims to be a christian submits his life to God’s will in every area. Not even everyone of them IS a christian. But the point is that the symbol of the cross reminds us of Christ and His sacrifice for us, so that we can have hope in whatever terreble circumstance we find ourselves.

  • jamesdalbright1

    Our sights should also be pointed at those that have put in place the mechanism that has caused this public school, college, cartoon, sitcom, movie, Federal, State and Local left liberal government anti-Christian anti-Semitic psychosis. It is this mechanism that has to be eradicated from the USA. Addressing the people put this mechanism into place will also solve the Muslim terrorist problems in the USA as well since it is these people who are assimilating them into their anti-Christian, anti-Semitic agenda in the USA and in the world.

  • Chip_M

    I am very much against religious symbols on courthouse lawns and other overtly religious displays on government property because they are essentially territorial markers erected by Christian nationalists – a not so subtle way of saying “this is ours and if you’re not one of us we don’t want you to forget it”. I definitely have a problem with that. It’s obnoxious. I don’t view this particular cross that way. It isn’t territorial. It isn’t Christians claiming ownership of the commons. It’s simply Christians looking for hope amid the rubble. I’m not sure why would I want to deny them that.

  • wrobertg

    Seems these atheists are all about preventing anything that’s inspirational for others especially if there is any Christian or religious connection. Perhaps they could offer something that’s inspirational for them. To me their law suit is a real downer!

  • scottsf1

    As a Christian I’m told by the world I must be tolerant. So why is it that 80-90% of Americans claim to be religious, so why do we bow to the intolerant minority? The cross structure was a sign of hope for most who looked upon it. It is now a piece of history and deserves to be in the museum. It is unbelieveabe to me that we are having this discussion in the first place. How can people be so against something that they don’t believe in? If they don’t belive in it, it should not bother them and if it bothers them they must have some doubts in their non belief. Let the piece of American history go to the museum and its story told. Let people make their own decisions about what they see.

  • CocoLopez

    Wow. Ad hominem much?

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