On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked when hijackers crashed two commercial airliners into the “twin towers”: One and Two World Trade Center. As we all know, those buildings collapsed, along with other buildings in the area with other buildings being demolished because they were structurally unsound.
As part of a memorial, the New York Port Authority, a government agency that owns the land on which the towers once stood, has selected a portion of the building rubble – crossbeams – to be part of the memorial structure. These crossbeams look, coincidentally and strikingly, like the Christian cross. This has caused issue with some atheists, and the organization American Atheists filed a lawsuit on that mark.
Now if the memorial the Port Authority was attempting to erect was unmistakably a Christian cross, they’d run afoul of the First Amendment in a heartbeat. Remember that the Port Authority is a government agency, meaning they are restricted by the Constitution. They may not do any thing that overtly promotes religion, and erecting a cross on public property does such a thing. But then there’s this cross, or crossbeam rather:
First question to be asked is this: why was this crossbeam selected? Sure, it’s relatively small, smaller than some of the other rubble around Ground Zero, and there are similar pieces of rubble recovered from Ground Zero. And if the intent is for it to be treated just as a piece of rubble from the original towers – it’s believed to come from One World Trade Center – then why is it being treated as a religious relic? Replicas of the cross or other crossbeams from Ground Zero have been given to religious organizations, including the Knights of Columbus1 and Society of the Atonement2. The nearby St Paul’s Chapel sells replicas of the cross, calling it the Ground Zero “Miracle Cross”.3
With all of this religious symbolism around the cross, along with the continual Christian backlash against attempts by Islamic organizations to build a mosque blocks away from Ground Zero, how can an attempt to erect something in the shape of a cross, that has been treated as a religious relic by so many people and organizations, not be in violation of the First Amendment?
In my opinion, the Port Authority’s erection of the cross on public land is a violation of the First Amendment.
But other atheists disagree. A New York lawyer who video blogs on YouTube under the name ProfMTH posted a video (below) and a blog article4 saying essentially that the lawsuit by American Atheists is “frivolous” because the cross is just a set of crossbeams like dozens of others also recovered from Ground Zero.
In my opinion the history behind this piece of rubble makes it impossible for the Port Authority to separate itself from the promotion of religion in erecting the cross. Why the cross? Why that particular piece of rubble? Is there no alternative, a piece of rubble that they can display that cannot at a glance be mistaken for a religious symbol? I can think of one:
There are so many other pieces of rubble they could have selected, yet this cross is what was chosen, likely for religious reasons. The site will forever be treated as hallowed ground by everyone who knows what happened there. Some will certainly pray on the site, and that is within their rights. Others will quietly reflect on history, like walking through a Civil War battleground.
But what we don’t need is a religious relic being purposefully installed on public ground by a government agency.
Too many people view “9/11” as an attack on Christianity by Islam, as if it’s another battle in a religion-on-religion war, primarily for the purpose of persisting the guise of Christianity itself being persecuted, just as Jesus was persecuted according to the Bible. Except it was no such thing. Yet this cross perpetuates that lie. It was not an attack on Christianity, just as the attack in the London subway 911 days after “9/11” was not an attack on Anglicanism. No one else in the world views “9/11” as an attack on Christianity, only Americans.
Again it was not an attack on Christianity. The attacks of September 11, 2011, were attacks by Islamic mercenaries, who had trained in Afghanistan and were harbored by the Taliban government, against the United States of America.
- http://www.rockawave.com/news/2004-09-10/Community/068.html [↩]
- http://web.archive.org/web/20071009211450/http://cny.org/archive/ld/ld090403.htm [↩]
- http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/shop/products/gifts-ground-zero-miracle-cross-pewter-collection/ [↩]
- http://profmth.tumblr.com/post/8238304488/sometimes-a-cross-beam-is-just-a-cross-beam [↩]