A federal court ruled Monday that the existence of a cross at Ground Zero does not violate the Constitution, slamming the appeal filed by the secular activist group American Atheists.
The famous cross, formed by two intersecting beams left standing after the 9/11 attacks, has been a powerful spiritual symbol for many since and even during the tragedy. Frank Silecchia discovered the cross while helping recover bodies from the site. “It was a sign,” he later said. “a sign God hadn’t deserted us.”
American Atheists felt differently. In July 2011, they filed suit over the cross, which had been included in the 9/11 Memorial Museum, saying members of their group found its presence there “offensive and repugnant to their beliefs, culture, and traditions, and allege that the symbol marginalizes them as American citizens.”
“Many of American Atheists’ members have seen the cross, either in person or on television, and are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them through the power of the state,” the suit read. (RELATED: The Ground Zero Cross Suffers For The Sins Of Atheists)
The group’s opposition to the cross was so unbelievable to some that it earned its own entry on Snopes.com, a site dedicated to debunking urban legends.
In March 2013, a New York district court ruled against the group, noting that “since the decision to include the artifact in the Museum’s Historical Exhibit has a secular purpose, [the authorities responsible for the museum] have not advanced religion impermissibly, and the cross does not create excessive entanglement between the state and religion.” (RELATED: Atheists Attack World Trade Center Cross, Claim It Causes ‘Mental Pain’)
Still not satisfied, they filed an appeal a few months later, again arguing that its presence “alienates non-Christians seeking to commemorate the dead, wounded and other affected persons,” and that “the overwhelmingly dominant display of the cross over any other religious symbolism is a violation of the Establishment Clause.” They softened their argument, however, no longer contending that any display of the cross was unconstitutional, but instead seeking to change the manner in which it was displayed.
The federal appeals court denied the appeal Monday, reiterating that “the stated purpose of displaying The Cross at Ground Zero to tell the story of how some people used faith to cope with the tragedy is genuine, and an objective observer would understand the purpose of the display to be secular” and that “an objective observer would not view the display as endorsing religion generally, or Christianity specifically, because it is part of an exhibit entitled ‘Finding Meaning at Ground Zero,’ [which] includes various nonreligious as well as religious artifacts.”
“This bizarre legal challenge from an atheist group was exposed for what it was – a skewed legal challenge that had no merit,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice. ACLJ filed an amicus brief in favor of the cross remaining a part of the memorial.
“This decision is a significant constitutional victory that protects the freedom to display religiously-themed artifacts of historical or artistic significance without running afoul of the Constitution,” he continued.
American Atheists told the Daily Caller Monday afternoon that they are still processing the ruling and are not yet ready to comment.