Sunday, September 11, 2011

Atheists get Cross at Ground Zero



In this article by The Wall Street Journal, a group of atheists have filed suit in New York state court in response to a cross that has been constructed at Ground Zero. the group claims that the cross is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by promoting a particular religion on government property. They go on to stress that people are having particular religious traditions pressed upon them that may not be their own. Dan Blair, communication director for the American Atheists says, "To turn this memorial into a Christian prayer site is to disrespect and dishonor non-Christians who died at the hand of Muslim Terrorists that day."


A Christian legal advocacy organization, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), responded by saying "This is another pathetic attempt to re-write the Constitution and re-write history by removing a symbol that has deep meaning and serves as a powerful remembrance to that fateful attack."



While the ACLJ is very confident the case will fail in court, I am not so sure. In a similar case in 2003, Glassroth vs. Moore, a federal judge ordered the removal of a monument of the Ten Commandments from a state judicial building. The first amendment does not allow the establishment (or promotion) of a particular religion by Congress or the preference of one religion over another.



While Ground Zero is a spiritual place to many who go to pray and pay their respects to any who died, the construction of a religious monument on-site breaks the first amendment. At first I found myself skeptical of this case, considering that symbols or emblems of other religions could be included at the site, however the public display of religious symbols of any kind is still obtrusive to atheists, who do not carry any of those beliefs. Atheists have the right to attend Ground Zero to pay respects to any who died without being subjected to the ideologies of Christianity or any other religion.


While I am sure those who constructed the Cross has good intentions, namely to pay respect to all Christians who died, the construction of the Cross infringes on the rights of all others who may feel slighted by the large cross or feel that the government is neglecting their own religion (or lack thereof) and playing favorites with Christianity.

Only by removing the Cross from Ground Zero, and perhaps reconstructing it nearby, on private property--not government property, can everyone be happy and comfortable while visiting Ground Zero. Although Ground Zero marks a sad and tragic day, it should not be a place that holds ties to any specific religion or set of beliefs.

The ACLJ appears very confident that this case will be thrown out, why do you think they are so sure? Do you think the construction of this Cross is a violation of the first amendment? Can you think of any way to find a satisfactory compromise where Christianity/other religions and atheists share Ground Zero? Or are the atheists in the right completely and the Cross should be removed from the site to an alternate private location? I find it unfortunate that a location so highly cared for and marked, one sense of the word or another, as sacred by the entire country is being legally disputed by major religions. Until some clear legislation about what is and is not permitted on this site is made, this strife will surely continue for yet another decade.



10 comments:

Harry R. said...

I agree with David that the precedent of Glassroth v. Moore will be significant in this case. The placement of a cross at the Ground Zero site is connecting religion and 9-11 in a very explicit way. While the 9-11 Memorial is not as clearly federal as a judicial building, I feel that the similarities are significant. Also, since religious readings have been withheld from the 9-11 ceremonies, I feel that this precedent will also impact the ruling on this cross. If religion is withheld from the ceremony, it follows that it should be withheld from the memorial.

Justin E said...

I do not agree with Harry and David. Rather I agree with the views of the ACLJ. The image of the cross I believe has become secularized in this country. Many bare a cross around their necks with no religious meaning held to it at all. In addition, I have seen many roadside memorials set up on major roadways, yet these do not impose upon my religious beliefs. Atheist are still welcome at the memorial to pay respects. I fully do not believe that the presence of this cross subjects them to Christianity. The cross has become secularized over the years, and is just as widely used today as a symbolic image than as a religious figure.

Zermeno A. said...

I personally find myself in a bind when it comes down to such topics.The fact that religion is a such a debatable subject is unquestionable and thus, just like we have seen in many precedent cases, similar cases will arise time after time. Though it may seem wrong to ask that the cross is removed from Ground Zero, it also wrong to expect that Atheists sit around when their "beliefs" are beeing overlooked. The site is a place where many people (religious/and non religious) go to pay their respects and each can do so accordingly. With that said, we do not know that all of those who died were religious and thus, we should not mark the site with objects that represent a certain religion.

Christy said...

In many articles published about the controversial “Christian cross” it is often described as a cross-shaped steel beam that was found among the remains of the 9/11 destruction. If you walk across the street from where the Twin Towers once stood, you can enter the memorial center and see other such remains. Even though I see the importance and meaning behind the cross for Christians, I think it’s important to remember that it is a piece of steel that was recovered in the wreckage and piece of history that needs to be signified. To a certain extent, the cross can be seen as offensive to atheists but it’s not forcing anything on them, other than a visual reminder of 9/11.

Ashley R said...

For a basic refutation of this post, I think a cross-reference to Ally R’s post will suffice. There are a few things, however, which need to be pointed out. Firstly, the cross was not “constructed.” It was found in the rubble of the Twin Towers, and it is this fact that makes the cross a symbol of hope and not necessarily one of religion. The major issue with the blog is the definition of the cross. David posits that the cross, rather than being a symbol of hope, is an explicit issuance of the Christian faith – a position made clear in his reference to Glassroth vs. Moore.
Overall, the atheists’ claim seems like another tactic to rewrite history and remove any sign of faith from public life. As far as the museum goes, it is housing anything to do with 9.11 – including some Bucknell memorabilia, which have been used to commemorate 9.11. Excluding something (e.g. the cross), which has been a part of 9.11 simply because the symbol is part of Christianity is wrong and serves only to put forth an agenda above an accurate representation of our nation’s remembrance of 9.11.

kanderson said...

We discussed this a couple of times during class and I just wanted to come back to it after the event. During the services, Obana did read a full psalm. Aswell, at the services in PA, in his speech he quoted the Bible directly. I understand that there are many touch stones for many individuals in these two religious forms, but how can we guarentee that the entire audience is religious let alone Christian. I do not think it is overly appropriate for our president to be broadcasting minutes worth of religious material during a time of commemoration.

Casey K said...

Churches are built to resemble a cross; the cross is the internationally recognized symbol for Christianity. A cross is religious, and I believe that to be indisputable. The fact remains that it does have a clear connection to a religion, and displaying the symbol does infringe on the rights of others. It may be constructed from the rubble of the towers, but there was a lot of rubble, pick one that does not have a direct link to a religion. The Atheists have reason to be upset, and so do people from all other religions.

Sam S said...

The cross, even though it was not constructed, should not be included in the 9/11 memorial. While I understand that it became a symbol of hope for some Americans it did not become a symbol of hope for all Americans. I feel that this memorial should be about the Americans who died on that day and not necessarily the Christian Americans who did. By adding the cross to the memorial the government would be giving preference to one religion and therefore, violating the First Amendment.

Jon W. said...

Even though I am in support of the cross at Ground Zero, the group of Atheists in this article present a valid case. Like Casey said a cross is clearly christian and the 9/11 service is a public service. In my opinion an open service to all and then a separate christian service where the cross can be present and prayer appropriate would be a viable solution. Religion plays a large role in many peoples lives when coping with tragedies like 9/11. With separate religious services people will be able to act freely without infringing on others beliefs.

Andrew Lichtenauer said...

In my opinion, devastating tragedies like 9/11 can adhere to a different set of guidelines when talking about religious expression. Under normal circumstances, I would agree that there should be guidelines regarding religious symbols shown in public places. In times of tragedy, however, I believe that the victims and their families deserve some sort of leniency. For example, whenever someone dies in a highway accident, the family and friends of the victim often place flowers, stuffed animals, personal notes, and even religious symbols to commemorate the lives of their lost loved ones. These memorials alongside highways do not seem to cause much controversy in the U.S., despite the many highway memorials that are scattered throughout our country. My question is – how are the religious symbols displayed at these highway memorials any different from the cross displayed at ground zero? Can’t we cut the grieving some slack in times of tragedy?