By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Eleven years after the World Trade Center attack, the billion dollar memorial and museum dedicated to the victims of 9/11 is just half that - a memorial without an operating museum.
And though a dispute between New York City’s mayor and New York’s governor is responsible for delaying the opening, a separate legal battle is aimed at blocking one museum exhibit in particular: a large cross made of one of the twin tower’s T-beams that became a national symbol in the days after the 2001 attacks.
A national group called American Atheists is suing the museum to stop the display of the cross, arguing that a religious symbol has no place in a memorial that’s backed by public funds and that is supposed to serve as a monument to victims of many different religions - and to those who had no religion at all.
“It is important that it not be displayed to the exclusion of everyone else,” said David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, which first filed suit in July 2011. “This case is about inclusion, it is not about the elimination of religion, it is about the inclusion of everyone.”
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum says it included the cross because it “became an icon of hope and comfort throughout the recovery in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks.”
The case has gained national attention and has become important to many atheists and religious Americans alike. While atheist blogs and publications have pushed this case, spearheaded by American Atheists, conservative religious groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice have cited it as an example of growing anti-Christian sentiment and have filed an amicus brief in support of his display.
In light of all the attention, one legal expert says the atheists’ legal case is “absurd.”
“I think the odds of a court ordering the cross removed are literally zero,” said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal analyst. “The museum is not building a place for religious worship, they are preserving a historical relic that was meaningful to a great many people and part of the story of 9/11.”
Toobin compared the cross’s inclusion in the museum with the many other instances in which government-funded museums feature religious artwork.
“When the government is surveying a historic development, the government does not have to exclude religions images and artifacts from its displays,” Toobin said.
The 17-foot cross was discovered by Frank Silecchia, a construction worker who helped with the clean up and recovery at ground zero. The cross is a steel T-beam, a common architectural device used in the building of the World Trade Center towers.
The case hasn’t gotten anywhere since it was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit names prominent government officials, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both of whom play a role in the deciding how the World Trade Center site is used.
Caught in a funding battle between Bloomberg on the one hand and Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the other, it is unclear about when the museum will open. The memorial opened last year, on September 12, after families of those killed on September 11 marked the 10-year anniversary at the memorial.
The museum did not respond to a request for comment.
In documents submitted to the court, the museum defends the inclusion of the cross, saying that “the 9/11 Museum is an independent nonprofit corporation. Its curators’ decisions to display particular objects, such as the Artifact, in the Museum are not state actions to which Constitutional protections apply.”
In the same documents, the museum argues that even if constitutional protections apply, “there is no legal authority for the proposition that a museum is prohibited from displaying an item with historical, cultural or artistic significance merely because that item also has religious significance.”
Silverman rejects that argument. “The argument that this is not a religious symbol is asinine and arrogant,” he says. “They want 9/11 to appear to be an attack on Christianity, and it was not.”
Shortly after plans for a 9/11 museum started to be worked out, Silecchia, the construction worker, and the Rev. Brian Jordan, a priest who ministered to firefighters and emergency responders at ground zero, began to press to the inclusion of the World Trade Center cross in the memorial and museum.
“First of all, it is an artifact of ground zero,” Jordan told the Irish Echo, a small publication in New York, in 2002. “And secondly, it is sacred ground, for God’s sake.”
Jordan declined interview requests, saying in an e-mail that “after a careful period of reflection, I have decided not to make any public comment at this time.”
In the same interview, Jordan argued that the reason it should be included is because most of the victims were Christians - “the plurality of which were Catholic,” Jordan said. The cross was first displayed near the edge of ground zero, until on October 5, 2006, the cross was moved to St. John’s Church, where it sat on the corner of Barclay and Vesey streets.
Jordan’s efforts for the cross’ inclusion were successful, when on July 23, 2011, Jordan blessed the cross at a ceremony in Zuccotti Park before it was transported into its permanent setting in the museum.
“After a 10-year journey of faith, the World Trade Center Cross has finally found its home,” Jordan said in a statement at the time.
Do not include the cross, period. It is a symbol of one religion only, and those being honored there were of many faiths, and those who were of no faith. Don't turn the memorial into some kind of pseudo religious shrine–that is contrary to the purpose and is not necessary. And yes, I am atheist.
The cross is a symbol of sacrifice. A sacrifice made with only love as the outcome. You can take away the symbol of the cross but the love and sacrifice still remains. Thank God....
Did you know that the cross was a religious symbol long before Christianity existed? It is also mentioned by the god-man himself, "jesus" in the gospels; which is odd since it wouldn't have had any meaning when jesus was alive, yet he ordered his apostles to "take up the cross". Why would he do such a thing? Why would the cross have had any symbolic nature to christians before their version of sun god had been hung upon it.....like many god-men created by man before jesus.
Jesus knew He was heading to the cross.
@Chad – it still would not have had meaning to people.....except that it already had meaning. It's simply one of the many mistakes made by the authors of the bible.....they weren't the brightest bunch. And it's fact, not opinion that the cross bore religious meaning in many pre-Christian civilizations.
A great many things Jesus said were not understood..
how does that prove anything?
Jesus knew He was heading to the cross.
And he cried and moaned up there...to the invisible guy in the sky. For being a God, he didnt act like a God. Sorry he got beat up a little and did no great act sitting on a cross. He was a delusional cultic personality who died for hsi delusion. Then cried when he realized it was a bad decision
I believe the atheists in this case have a point, possibly despite themselves.
People of many religions died in the attack on the world trade center. How does the family of a Jewish victim of Sikh victim react to government sponsored Christian symbolism at their gravesite? Its unecessary and disrespectful to the many non-Christians who were killed in this awful attack.
It's 2 pieces of metal that survived the destruction. Why must anyone attach religious significance to it?
Yea, I don't get it. Think about how normal it would be to find two pieces of crossed metal in that wreckage?
.... now if you find a pre-made jewish star...
good for them – religion poisons everything as a wise man once said...
which wise man was that?
Ryan Reynolds said that. Such a brilliant mind..
@Bill Christopher Hitchens. A VERY wise man indeed.
Is the magic guy in the robe putting some sort of force field around the building to protect it from evil? It scares me that any modern human could buy into such caveman theatrics.
It amazes me that people like you think you can know the unknowable.
That's the unfortunate reality we live in. It baffles me. Only an arrogant, misguided fool could believe that he/she understands "god" and all the vast enigma that comprise the universe. Gullible fools.
Bill: That's the whole point. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE. NO ONE KNOWS WHO MADE THE UNIVERSE. YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS HOLD AS MUCH WEIGHT AS THE EGYPTIANS, ROMANS, GREEK, NORSE, BUDDHISTS, ATHEISTS, AGNOSTICS, PAGANS, MUSLIMS, SHINTO, HINDU, ETC... GROW UP, SHEEP. JOIN THE 21ST CENTURY.
Ah...anti-religious bigotry frothing at the mouth. Traci, you are a fine example of that...
Anti religious bigotry = reason, hope, peace, science, technology, medicine. Stop using modern man's technology if you hate reason so much.
"Anti religious bigotry = reason"
== Only in your eyes.
== In what? Knowing that nothing you do matters? That existence is an accident?
== Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot disagree
== I believe very much in Science
== I enjoy technology very much too. But technology has nothing to do with religion or lack thereof.
== Medicine has nothing to do with religion or lack of religion
Stop using modern man's technology if you hate reason so much.
== Stop making stupid comments that have nothing to do with the discussion.
I am an atheist. I don't care what kind of religious symbol is displayed. I don't care when its displayed nor do I care where its displayed. I do care if its ugly, but I still don't object if it is displayed. I don't care if you pray in the classroom or in your bathroom. To me its all a bunch of wishful thinking, but what you wish for is your business. Peace.
The teachings of jesus are immoral and full of hate towards non christians. Hell, fire, torture all reserved for non believers while rapist christians will enjoy heaven sucking off jesus. Such nazi ideology has no place in the 21st century.
Hitchens destroys christianity (3 mins)...............
Chris Hitchens was an ignorant clown who blubbered about things he was completely unqualified to blubber about.
You're exactly right. I feel the same way
Big lie there Billy boy..... look who's blubbering now?
why is the one side always covered in cloth?
(not sure that this will display right, but will try)
Did they find any beams like this?:
The "H" could easily stand for "Horus"... or better yet, "Humanist"!
They found wreckage that looked like .I..
. . . Which is of course Jesus flipping us off.
nope I tried to get her locked up but they said they could only do so if I signed her over for good and her mammy and pappy (sista and grampi) refused to help
Bronze age mythology has no place in the 21st century.
Hitchens destroys Jesus zombie myth (3 mins).....
Destroys? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Destroys????? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA
Being an Atheist means you don't believe in God. It ISN'T a religion, it is the opposite of religion. How can people be so dumb as to keep calling it a religion?
IT'S NOT A RELIGION!"
It IS religion when your belief and practice of it carries the same tenants of organizaed religious belief. For example i can say "I don't care". The meaning of this statement changes to mean that I DO care if I am going out of my way and spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to show how much I don't care. This is what some atheists do when they engage in prosthelytizing, telling people "I believe in science" and generally rpotray themselves as atheist devotees as you are doing currently.
Yeah, by definition...it is a religion. You choose to believe in Charles Darwin...who...after seeing some birds with different beak size...determined that we all evolved from the same mold that grows in your shower. You have faith in a religion called science...that can not demonstrate one example of MACRO evolution. Cannot demonstrate how singel celled organisms turend into multi-celled ones. Cannot prove how DNA came into existence.
Talk about faith...Atheists have more faith than any other religious person...in the face of overwhelming evidence against what they believe in.
Yeah, by definition...it is a religion. You choose to believe in Charles Darwin...who...after seeing some birds with different beak size...determined that we all evolved from the same mold that grows in your shower. You have faith in a religion called science...that can not demonstrate one example of MACRO evolution. Cannot demonstrate how single celled organisms turend into multi-celled ones. Cannot prove how DNA came into existence.
Religion usually concerns the supernatural. One can do something in a religious way, such as drink coffee every day, but they don't have to adore the coffee or consider it a sacred thing (as the word sacred, again, has religious basis).
In any case, you're equivocating a lot and you're just building a straw man.
Atheism is not a belief system, it is the absence of belief. One can be an atheist and not believe in science (hard to imagine but possible) and one can be an atheist and enjoy arguing with people because they feel it is fun, sort of like engaging in a form of sophistry.
@Reality check, yes, more straw man arguments... You're really good at bad logic.
Reality check is right, 'cause you really need one. If you actually believe that evolution hasn't been proven, then you should not be allowed to partake of any life-saving medicine or medical technique that is the product of biological evolution.
@Reality one of the most ignorant and ill-informed rants I've read in a while. Congratulations!
Another moron that doesn't understand evolution.
mans miracle is anothers steel T beam, go figure!
Sometimes for the sake of honoring others and respecting their beliefs we have to comprimise for the sake of the human condition..the cross is a special symbol and even though I am of another religion if it gives the familes who have been devastated comfort and remind us of the good parts of our faith ..then to protest such a comforting symbol is petty and meanspirited.
Religion brought the towers down. Thanks idiots.
And then religion demanded a war in Iraq because of 9/11, which had nothing to do with 9/11.
And atheism caused the killing fields. Clown.
No, Billy Boy, a megalomaniac caused the killing fields, not atheism.
Bill, obviously you have the brain of a cat. Your handle fits.
I'm an atheist and I have no problems with this. I don't think their actions represent the majority of atheists. It was a symbol of the attacks and the brave people who helped with the recovery. When we do things such as this, it makes us look just as intolerant as those we complain about. It's called freedom of religion. As Americans, we have the right to believe in whatever we want which including not believing at all.
I tend to agree with you. I adopted atheist philosophy decades ago and think that religion is a throwback to the middle ages and all the gods and messiahs are nothing but mythology. I think religion has long outlived it's usefulness and we'd be much better off without it. But us atheists have to pick our battles, so to speak. The cross in the WTC is not a battle worth fighting, I believe.
This cross symbolizes the wars and torture and concentration camps and illegal wiretapping and indefinite internment and junk touching and all the other inhuman behavior that Christians championed in the wake of 9/11.
This cross is the perfect symbol of the misunderstanding and bad decisions that come from religion: Christianity really played no role in the events of 9/11, yet the cross gets pushed forward to be the symbol. Then came the monsterous behavior in the Middle East, where the military response was mostly at groups that were not al Qaida, with hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed. While Christians here supported it, and torture, and so on.
Let that cross go to that museum, and let people see it for the lie and atrocities that Christains embraced in the years that followed. Let that cross stand for the shameful behavior of vengeful Christians.
See that cross as the waterboard it resembles.
So every single Christian is evil. That's like saying if one Atheist murders they are all murderers. Please use some other standard of judgement instead tired old ones.
According to numerous studies, the group that had the highest approval of war, torture, secret rendition, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, and other things was the Christians, and the more devout, the more they supported the atrocities of America at its worts.
Google it if you don't believe me.
You have confused the word "Christian" with "Republican Party" They are totally unrelated. You fail at internet.
Maybe if you actually READ the Bible...you might educate yourself on what Christianity really is. But I doubt you ever will. Much easier to spout hate than actually learn anything.
See my previous post, unreality check.
@reality check – I wish someone would remind the republican party of that.
The so-called cross is a misinterpreted coincidence. It symbolizes exactly the same thing that a pattern of scorches on a piece of toast symbolizes if somebody imagines it looks like the imagined face of Jesus. I say put the "cross" on E-Bay, raise some money and use that money to feed some hungry people. That would transform it into a Christian symbol. Otherwise it's just a coincidence.
im a pagan to me the Cross is a symbol of suffering, bigotry, censorship and tyranny
indecently all of which this nation has done since 9/11
it does not deserve to be their for this reason alone, and the other reason because Jews, Muslims, Atheist and "pagans" were also killed and it disrespect their grave
Freedom of belief also means that guys like me can say "I don't care what you think", which I don't!
I like this post that I saw earlier:
So a building made out of
and it is a miracle and a message from a god when this happens.
hahahaha! yes! of course its a miracle! how could it not be.... its a numbers game people. Its like those people who survive a plane crash or car wreck. They say "oh its a miracle that they survived!"put it this way.. Millions of people fly every day or drive every day but somehow its a miracle when one person survives a horrible crash. It NOT a miracle, it just numbers and simply a matter of time. You put enough people in a wreck, eventually one will survive. C'mon, its not a miracle... by any measure.
Whadayamean Bill !!!
That "cross" clearly looks designed to me. There must be a creator. It couldn't have happened by chance.
I think people see what they want to see. But this is just like finding the virgin mary in toast or in a stain. If that's what you believe, then that is what you will see. But its not a miracle, its just a piece of toast. Did this piece of toast ever heal the sick or cure cancer? It sure as hell never fed anyone because some religious nut job bought it for a crazy amount of money and put in in a museum. Every time i see this, just makes me think of how many nut-jobs really are out there.
That cross did have a creator. U.S. Steel created the beams, Joe Bob's Construction put them together, and al Qaeda created the wreckage that coincidentally formed the cross.
Therefore, since those are the creators, you shoudl bow and worship them.
Truly an example of creation.
I like posts like this too because it helps me find out who the losers of the world are like you.You are just a frustrated moron who thinks he bothers us God lovers.Yes God with a capital G Potsie Webber!! Ha Ha Ha
@OOO well your right about one thing, it WAS designed. By the architects of the WTC. Just so happens there were thousands these ( i literally mean thousands of them). Dont you think that one would survive and that being said, I bet more than one survived but how many people took pictures of them and how many people we so religious that they felt it had to be a sign from god? Seriously... do you really believe that this one was the only one? because youd be wrong. Just others who found it were religious and to them. just another part of the structure where again i stress.. thousands of these existed. You saw what you wanted to see and hey, if that gets you through the day then more power to you. But dont call this a miracle or act of god. A real miracle would have been to stop it from happening in the first place.
HOW DARE YOU DENY TOAST JESUS, YOU ATHIEAS, uh, ATHEEIES, uh, WHY CAN'T YOU MAKE A NAME THAT PEOPLES LIKE ME CAN SPELL?!?!?!?!
@Larry Joe Bob i love you man!
@dave whatever you gotta tell yourself my man. Maybe that'll ease the pain of being wrong but hey.. you calling me a moron.. just cant put any stock into it because I voice my views and im a moron. you voice yours and freedom of speech. But hey, whatever you have to tell yourself. Myself, I wont resort to calling you names
Man this room is full of hate. I like it when atheists see a story about religion they always have to make there hateful comments. It's like they troll cnn to find storys like this just so they can make a dumb comment.
There is nothing "hateful" about separation of church and state.
mike, do you have something to say, or are you just going to complain today?
Are you hating on all the hatred?
What hate, exactly? Perhaps its the same "hate" you would have if your tax dollars were used to create an atheist memorial and have your public officials promote atheism?
mike, hating on the hate is a very hateful act, and too much hate for this forum. We do not allow that kind of crazy rampant hatred here.
This is a story about Atheists. Wow, you folks don't want us anywhere, do you? Well, guess what, we are here to stay and we are gaining in numbers every day.
Why can’t atheists solve exponential equations? Because they don’t believe in higher powers.
LOL – I'm a non-believer but that was funny – good one....
That was pretty good.
LOL ! :D Well done !
I second Horace's reply!
Oh, are we going to start THAT? Why can't Baptists do it standing up? (Someone might look through the window and think they were dancing)
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.