On Friday, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled a cross-shaped steel beam housed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution or mean the museum is “endorsing Christianity.”
American Atheists sued the museum in 2011, claiming that displaying the cross affirmed Christianity, disrespected the contributions of non-Christian rescuers, and violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
But Batts rejected those arguments and counter-argued that the cross and its accompanying panels of text demonstrated, “how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort." She further concluded that the museum's creators aren’t advancing religion, nor does the artifact “create excessive entanglement between the state and religion."
Edwin Kagin, a lawyer for the atheist group, plans to appeal, calling the decision an effort by the government to instill Christianity as America’s official religion. “For anyone to think this is not a religious symbol being moved for religious reasons into the World Trade Center museum is incredible,” he said.
Rescue workers found the 17-foot steel beam two days after the 9/11 terror attacks at New York City’s World Trade Center. The cross will be displayed along with 1,000 other artifacts, photos, oral histories, and videos in an underground museum scheduled to open next year.