A three-judge panel from the 2nd United States Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by atheists and ruled that a cross-shaped beam from the demolition of the World Trade Center can continue to be displayed at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero.
In 2012, American Atheists filed a federal lawsuit alleging the 17-foot cross at the museum, which was built from private as well as public funds, is unconstitutional. The group said its members suffered emotionally as well as physically from the presence of the beamed cross that often resulted in indigestion, headaches and mental agony. The group filed for the appeal after a lower court quashed its earlier lawsuit that aimed to shift focus from the cross to requesting a plaque that would read something like, “Atheists died too.”
Judge Reena Raggi ruled that an observer would understand that the cross was symbolic of all persons who witnessed the 9/11 attacks and its aftermath.
“Such an observer would not understand the effect of displaying an artifact with such an inclusive past in a Museum devoted to the history of the September 11 attacks to be the divisive one of promoting religion over nonreligion. Nor would he think the primary effect of displaying The Cross at Ground Zero to be conveying a message to atheists that they are somehow disfavored ‘outsiders,’ while religious believers are favored ‘insiders,’ in the political community,” she wrote.
Rescue workers discovered the beam two days after the terror attack and it is part of 1,000 other artifacts that are displayed at the 100,000 square feet underground museum.
Now, American Atheists has the option to appeal to the entire court or request the three-judge panel to reconsider its decision before filing another petition at the Supreme Court.
“We argued from the beginning that this was a flawed legal challenge designed to re-write history and eliminate a powerful historical artifact. This bizarre legal challenge from an atheist group was exposed for what it was — a skewed legal challenge that had no merit,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal firm that filed a brief in support of keeping the cross.
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