U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in a ruling released publicly Friday 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.Wait, what? What's that again?
"No reasonable observer would view the artifact as endorsing Christianity," the judge said.Pardon me while I rant about this for a second. First, the cross was found in the wreckage of the WTC towers... buildings constructed with crossbeams... and declared by Christians to be a sign from God (a sign from God on the morning of the attacks might have been worth more, but whatever). The cross was blessed by a priest, inscribed with "God bless our fallen brothers", and became a site of Sunday religious services. American Atheists wanted a non-religious symbol included in the 9/11 Memorial for the many non-religious people who were killed. The powers that be refused, so AA sued them – arguing that since the memorial is partially taxpayer-funded, either they shouldn't play religious favorites, or they shouldn't have religious symbols at all. And now judge Deborah Batts has tossed out the suit, claiming that the cross isn't religious. That's right, according to the judge, the cross – which looks conspicuously like the symbol of the Christian religion, was inscribed with a Christian phrase, became the site of Christian worship services, and was blessed by a priest – isn't religious at all.
Some people, even the generally awesome Jon Stewart, have said that AA were being dicks for bringing this lawsuit. "Not now", they said. "Just let people have their grief", they said. No! Times like this are EXACTLY when religious privilege rears its ugly head. AA doesn't have anything against the cross being included – provided that the memorial allows people of other faiths or no faith to be represented as well. When did that become unreasonable? When did 9/11 become a tragedy only for Christians? Many Jews, Muslims, non-believers, and people of other faiths died in that tragedy. The dicks aren't the feared and maligned atheist groups who want religious equality, but the Christian majority who are exploiting the tragedy to have their beliefs given special privileges that the beliefs of other Americans are not.
AA is appealing the decision, and I hope they're successful.
Dave Silverman talked about the lawsuit (among others) when he visited Tulsa for FreeOK last year (he begins discussing it around the 14:50 mark):