N.Y. judge tosses atheist lawsuit over Sept. 11 steel cross

by
March 31, 2013

NEW YORK — A judge on Friday tossed out a lawsuit that sought to stop the display of a cross-shaped steel beam found among the World Trade Center’s rubble, saying the artifact could help tell the story of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts rejected the arguments of American Atheists, which had sued the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s operators in 2011 on constitutional grounds, contending that the prominent display of the cross constitutes an endorsement of Christianity, diminishing the contributions of non-Christian rescuers.

Batts wrote that the cross and its accompanying panels of text “helps demonstrate how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort.” She called its purpose “historical and secular” and noted that it will be housed at the museum in the “Finding Meaning at Ground Zero” section with placards explaining its meaning and the reason for its inclusion. It also will be surrounded by secular artifacts.

“No reasonable observer would view the artifact as endorsing Christianity,” the judge said. She added that the museum’s creators “have not advanced religion impermissibly, and the cross does not create excessive entanglement between the state and religion.” She said the plaintiffs also failed to allege any form of intentional discrimination or cite any adverse or unequal treatment on the basis of their religious beliefs.

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