Judge makes right decision in steel cross case
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the nation was devastated. But the impact was felt strongest in New York City, where the skyline – and thousands of lives – were irrevocably changed that day.
One of the icons in the wake of the attacks was a cross-shaped steel beam that was found two days later as rescue workers sifted through the rubble of the World Trade Center. Those who came to the site often left messages there, or paused at the cross-shaped beam for a moment of prayer or reflection.
The beam stood tall as an impromptu monument for almost 10 years, until July of 2011, when it was installed at the Sept. 11 memorial site.
However, the nonprofit group American Atheists sued over the inclusion of the beam in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, according to the New York Times, arguing that displaying the cross endorsed Christianity and diminished the contributions of non-Christian rescuers.
The group felt the beam's inclusion would violate the Constitution's establishment clause, as well as New York state civil-rights law, by exhibiting a religious symbol. The group, in an interview with theblaze.com, noted that the cross-shaped beam caused them physical and emotional pain.
The museum countered, noting that it is an independent, nonprofit entity, and that the beam is a relic of the attacks, not a religious symbol.
The judge in the case this week tossed out the lawsuit and rejected the arguments of American Atheists. According to The Associated Press, the judge noted that the cross and the panels of text accompanying it “helps demonstrate how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort.” U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts also noted that “No reasonable observer would view the artifact as endorsing Christianity.”
A lawyer for the atheists group has said American Atheists plans on appealing Batts' ruling.
The cross-shaped beam is an important part of the story of Sept. 11, 2001. It served as a touchstone for those working at the site, and provided a moment of peace for rescuers and workers who were tasked with grim duties at a site that had become a grave for over 2,700 victims.
The lawsuit is another case of a frivolous, unnecessary action which ultimately creates more angst in an already sensitive situation.