One of the major discoveries made during the September 11 recovery efforts was the “Ground Zero Cross,” a 17-foot steel beam that was discovered in the disastrous scene surrounding the World Trade Center after the attacks occurred.
Because of the beam’s shape, it quickly became a significant symbol for religious individuals involved in recovery efforts in New York. It later became more of a draw for tourists visiting Ground Zero and the surrounding areas.
The cross has been included as part of the National September 11 Memorial, which opened on May 21. The inclusion of the artifact was met with pressure from non-religious groups such as American Atheists, which filed a lawsuit in 2011 deeming the cross “offensive” and a violation of constitutional rights.
Essentially, it all comes down to: How is this offensive?
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The American Atheists case was dismissed by a federal judge last year, and a recent appeals court ruling had a similar message. According to Fox News, the judge presiding over the case has asked the plaintiffs to file additional legal briefs which answer questions regarding the offensive nature of the cross in order for the case to continue. American Atheists must now prove how the artifact "marginalizes" non-religious individuals and violates the constitution.
“Plaintiffs’ brief should, at a minimum, clarify both the injuries alleged and legal theories relied on to support standing,” reads the order from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the Christian Post.
Although the group has taken issue with the fact that the artifact symbolizes one particular religion and, in their eyes, seeks to position that religion above all others, both judges and the museum see the artifact as a larger symbol of September 11 and its aftermath.
“Hopefully, this is a signal that the Court will draw the line against American Atheists’ frivolous attack on Ground Zero Cross. More importantly, we hope the Court firmly rejects the idea that the Constitution treats religion with suspicion and instead reaffirms that it protects the role of religion in the public square,” said attorney Eric Baxter, who has defended the cross’s right to be in the museum.