Conservative law firm fights atheists’ suit over cross at 9/11 museum

A lawsuit that was filed by the group American Atheists to keep a revered cross out of the National September … Continued

A lawsuit that was filed by the group American Atheists to keep a revered cross out of the National September 11 Museum is being challenged by a conservative law firm that defends the public display of religious symbols.

The American Center for Law and Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday (Aug. 20) on behalf of the suit’s two defendants, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.

“The legal arguments of the atheist organization are both offensive and absurd,” the center’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement. He said 190,000 people had signed a petition opposing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is just one more controversy surrounding the 9/11 museum, which has been delayed by an ongoing financial dispute between the foundation and the Port Authority. Most recently, the foundation has resisted efforts by some victims’ family members to place the Koenig Sphere at the entrance to the museum. Like the cross, the sphere survived the attack damaged but intact, and has become a symbol of resilience.

The 9/11 museum isn’t open yet. But the foundation plans to include the 17-foot cross among more than 1,000 objects, including firetrucks, an ambulance and the 37-foot “Last Column,” left standing on the site of the former World Trade Center. The cross is actually two intersecting steel beams, found amid the wreckage of the collapsed twin towers after the 9/11 attacks.

American Atheists filed the suit a year ago in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The suit claims that including the cross in a museum on public property amounts to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. It also asserts the presence of the cross would result in injury — emotional and even physical in the case of extreme anxiety — to atheists left feeling excluded from what should be a place of unity and healing.

The foundation acknowledged in a filing in response to the suit that the cross “was venerated by certain workers during the course of the rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, including in religious services conducted by a priest.”

But, it insists, the cross is being included for historical, not religious, purposes.

For its part, the foundation argues that as a private, nonprofit group, it is not bound by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the constitutional basis for the separation of church and state.

The Port Authority notes that it “has no role in the display of the steel cross in the museum.”

The Washington-based ACLJ, founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, describes itself as a nonprofit, pro bono law firm “dedicated to the concept that freedom and liberty are universal, God-given and inalienable rights that must be protected.”

Michael Frazier, a spokesman for the 9/11 foundation, said his group had not sought the center’s help. “While it may be kind, we have not been working with the ACLJ,” he said.

Edwin Kagin, the American Atheists’ national legal director, welcomed the center inserting itself into the case.

“It’s fine with me,” Kagin said. “It’s merely more proof that religion is truly behind this.”

(Steve Strunsky writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • NatePoole

    Intolerance.

  • pawprinz

    As far as I’m concerned, atheists’ have no position here. Atheists do not believe in a higher entity. Per se God as we know him. Therefore, atheists can not be made ill or nauseated by something that does not exist in their minds. If they claim God in non-existent than how can a non-existent whatever, make them sick?? I do wish this group of non-existent idiots would carry on with their lives without making the rest of us nauseated by their ill-conceived BS.

  • lynnlm

    What about the Conservative Jews who died in the attack? It is ironic that the Christians want to support a graven image. “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (RSV Exodus 20:3-6).”

Read More Articles

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

shutterstock_186090179
How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

pews
Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

shutterstock_186566975
Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

2337221655_c1671d2e5e_b
Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

bible
Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

csl_wall_paper
What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.

Antonio_Molinari_David_y_Abigail
How to Resolve Conflict: A Bible Lesson for Foreign Policy Leaders

The biblical story of Abigail shows how visible vulnerability can create a path toward peace.