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Published On: Wed, Jul 30th, 2014

Appeals court rules that Ground Zero cross can stay at 9/11 Museum

A cross-shaped beam from the devastation at Ground Zero will be permitted at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an atheist group claiming it was unconstitutional.
The cross at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The cross at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The atheist group filed an appeal after a lower court dismissed the lawsuit, shifting the focus from the cross to asking for an added plaque that would say something like “atheists died, too.”

“We argued from the beginning that this was a flawed legal challenge designed to re-write history and eliminate a powerful historical artifact,” 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. “This bizarre legal challenge from an atheist group was exposed for what it was — a skewed legal challenge that had no merit.”
American Atheists filed a federal suit in 2012 claiming the 17-foot display at the museum built with a mix of public and private funds was unconstitutional. The group said its members suffered from both physical and emotional damages from the presence of the beamed cross, resulting in headaches, indigestion and mental pain.
“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,” federal Judge Reena Raggi wrote in the court’s decision. “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.”
The beam was found by rescue workers two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The “cross” is part of the 1,000 artifacts in a 100,000-square-foot underground museum.
American Atheists can appeal to the entire court or ask the three-judge panel to reconsider its decision before it can file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Check out top stories about the 9/11 Memorial cross on The Dispatch HERE
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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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