The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on Ground Zero cross

BEBETO MATTHEWS ASSOCIATED PRESS All hands stretch towards a steel beam cross as Rev. Brian Jordan, center, applies holy water … Continued

BEBETO MATTHEWS

ASSOCIATED PRESS

All hands stretch towards a steel beam cross as Rev. Brian Jordan, center, applies holy water during its rededication at the World Trade Center site in New York, Friday October 3, 2002.

Here at On Faith we’ve spent the week covering American Atheist’s lawsuit petitioning New York City to remove two steel beams –an Ground Zero artifact that forms the shape of a cross– from official September 11th memorials.

Few panelists defended the suit, and even our own atheist contributors seemed to feel that the lawsuit was ‘frivolous’ and distracted from real church and state battles. One notable exception was Tom Flynn, executive director of The Council for Secular Humanism, and editor of Free Inquiry magazine , who wrote that, “in a secular society, government needs to avoid not only the actuality, but even the appearance of endorsing one religion above others.”

On his show Thursday night, Daily Show host Jon Stewart took his turn tackling the controversy, noting that the American Atheist organization had taken such a hard-line approach on the issue that the organization had alienated “even those who are indifferent to their cause.”

“That cross is an artifact. It was found at Ground Zero,” Stewart said. “It has come to mean something to people who view it as a symbol of comfort.”

Watch Stewart’s take below. Viewer warning: In true Daily Show fashion, Stewart uses some language that is NSFW.

And if you have time, it’s worth re-watching Stewart’s show from Sept. 20, 2001. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the video helps put culture-war skirmishes like this one in their proper context.

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • hokiematt10

    Jon Stewart for president.

  • n_mcguire

    Wow, that second clip from 2001 was really moving. The view from his apartment used to be the World Trade Center, but now it’s the Statue of Liberty. I hadn’t heard that before, and it just touched me. Peace to you all, and if a couple of beams look like a cross to you, and if that gives you comfort, then that’s ok with me.

  • n_mcguire

    Wow, that second clip from 2001 was really moving. The view from his apartment used to be the World Trade Center, but now it’s the Statue of Liberty. I hadn’t heard that before, and it just touched me. Peace to you all, and if a couple of beams look like a cross to you, and if that gives you comfort, then that’s ok with me.

  • n_mcguire

    Wow, that second clip from 2001 was really moving. The view from his apartment used to be the World Trade Center, but now it’s the Statue of Liberty. I hadn’t heard that before, and it just touched me. Peace to you all, and if a couple of beams look like a cross to you, and if that gives you comfort, then that’s ok with me.

  • n_mcguire

    Wow, that second clip from 2001 was really moving. The view from his apartment used to be the World Trade Center, but now it’s the Statue of Liberty. I hadn’t heard that before, and it just touched me. Peace to you all, and if a couple of beams look like a cross to you, and if that gives you comfort, then that’s ok with me.

  • n_mcguire

    Wow, that second clip from 2001 was really moving. The view from his apartment used to be the World Trade Center, but now it’s the Statue of Liberty. I hadn’t heard that before, and it just touched me. Peace to you all, and if a couple of beams look like a cross to you, and if that gives you comfort, then that’s ok with me.

  • davidp4

    Thank God we came up with the term ‘culture war’ to end church and state disputes with the desired outcome. We were getting our butts kicked when we had to argue on the grounds of Logic.

    I hope we can mobilize for the next step. The ‘culture war’ ad hominym attack can only get us so far. We need to extend it with a classic slippery slope fallacy (like we do with “In God We Trust” on money or “One Nation Under God” in the Pledge and say that this makes us a Christian nation and therefore Jesus must be behind all legislation. We *can* make this an exclusive Christian nation since no one believes atheists have emotions or souls or rights so they can’t truly be hurt.

    Amen.

  • Catnip3

    I don’t think Jon Stewart quite gets the idea of separation and state and that christianity already has a space to put crosses in their churches and the homes of their marks, I mean adherents. It’s not about atheism being jealous for the limelight and being nasty to christianity but about resisting the claims and assaults of christianity to reign over government, public institutions, social and secular space and ultimately everybody’s internal life. When churches put up the financing for the WTC they can put their crosses anywhere including up Stewart’s tuchus (i.e. what goyimin in the heartland would call the wazoo) and get a pass on the taxes. Now that’s really funny.

  • Catnip3

    Jon Stewart just doesn’t GET IT, and he’s lost his Atheist, agnostic, skeptic, freethinker, secularist, humanist, Jewish credentials. It’s not about the i-beam cross, it’s not about 9/11, it’s not even about Ground Zero. IT’S ABOUT OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT NOT TO HAVE SOMEONE’S RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM IN OUR FACES.

    We Atheists fight on many fronts, Jonboy, and this one is important because we’ve been trying for 50 years to get “under god” out of our pledge of allegiance and “in god we trust” off our money. We’re not going to spend the next 50 years trying to get the church’s advertising logo, that so-called cross, out of the Ground Zero museum! We want it out now. They can put their “miracle cross” right across the street on church property and worship it all they please. It just can’t be on public property that we Atheists, Jews, humanists, etc., pay taxes for.

    OR, alternatively, the Museum can give equal space to ALL THE RELIGIONS REPRESENTED BY VICTIMS OF 9/11. HOWEVER, SINCE THERE ARE SOME 3,000 RELIGIONS IN THIS COUNTRY, THEY MIGHT NEED TO EXPAND THE MUSEUM a bit. And remember, each one of the “equal” displays would need to be 17-feet high. Imagine a 17-foot high Star of David and you get my drift.

    Hey Jon, fair’s fair. You may want to give the church this one, but where do you draw the line? Where are you going to immigrate to when America becomes a theocracy?

  • SalH

    The fact is, that constitutional “right” you stated? It doesn’t exist. People came here for religious FREEDOM. That means- the right to practice…or not…without government hindrance or mandate.

  • bojimbo26

    Where does holy water come from ?

  • ThomasBaum

    Was it part of the rubble or wasn’t it?

    Did it give comfort to some that were there and other places or not?

    Should the “dogma” of atheism trump all when freedom of religion and separation of church and state is for no one to shove their beliefs (theist, atheist or a combination of the two) down other people’s throats.

    Even tho many “Christians” seem to want a theocracy in Jesus’s Name, there are also many “Christians” who think that it would be the worst thing ever and it would in fact be spitting in Jesus’s Face.

    “My Kingdom is not of this world”, Jesus forced Himself on no one and He most definitely did NOT ask us to force Him on others.

    There is a big difference between “Proclaiming the GOOD NEWS” and shoving one’s beliefs down other people’s throats.

  • ThomasBaum

    Do you actually believe that God’s Plan, which Christianity is part of and God’s choosing and forming the Jews is part of, is, ultimately, for ALL or do you think that God is a loser?

    God’s Plan which God has had since before creation will come to Fruition and a tie is absolutely and utterly unacceptable.

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