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Hands stretch towards the Ground Zero cross as Rev. Brian Jordan, center, applies holy water during its rededication in 2002.
Associated Press/Photo by Bebeto Matthews
Hands stretch towards the Ground Zero cross as Rev. Brian Jordan, center, applies holy water during its rededication in 2002.

Court declares Ground Zero cross an important historic symbol

Religious Liberty

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

The American Atheists sued the National September 11 Museum & Memorial and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to remove the Ground Zero Cross memorial from the site of the 2001 Islamic terrorist attack in New York City, an attack that left close to 3,000 dead.

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During clean-up, a worker clearing rubble discovered two crossed steel beams in the debris. For those working amid the destruction, the cross came to symbolize faith and hope. In addition to the usual and erroneous constitutional “separation of church and state” contention, American Atheists actually argued the plaintiffs in the case “suffered, are suffering, and will continue to suffer damages, both physical and emotional, from the existence of the challenged cross … dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish from the knowledge that they are made to feel officially excluded from the ranks of citizens who were directly injured by the 9/11 attack and the lack of acknowledgement of the more than 1,000 non-Christian individuals who were killed at the World Trade Center.”

On Monday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those claims. Contrary to the argument that including religious symbols in a public historical display is impermissible religious promotion, the court contended that the U.S. Supreme Court “has long recognized that an accurate account of human history frequently requires reference to religion.”

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which filed an amicus brief in the case, warned that the group would “likely appeal this decision, so the case is not yet over, but the 2nd Circuit’s opinion represents a profound defeat for those who wish to drive faith not just out of the public square, but out of public memory.”

There is no biblical command to Christians to persuade their government to erect crosses and Commandments on public property. So why do individuals and Christian groups like the ACLJ fight to keep these symbols? The Ground Zero Cross in particular represents a resilient and hopeful spirit in the midst of destruction. As the foundation of this country is Christian, believers seek to retain the faith’s erected symbols, within the bounds of the law. Religiously motivated terrorists murdered Americans, and Americans rebuilt and moved forward.

Atheists’ efforts to remove crosses and Commandments aren’t a public service to their fellow unbelievers or some kind of noble quest to keep the government religion-free. The unrepentant, under God’s wrath, are stiff-necked in their rebellion against Him. But they are without excuse. The whole of creation testifies not just to His existence, but to His glory. And they don’t want to be reminded.

Christ said when unbelievers hate us, we are blessed. “For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:23) When Christ returns, His people will rejoice, while the haughty will quake with fear.

La Shawn Barber
La Shawn Barber

La Shawn writes about culture, faith, and politics. Her work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, the Washington Examiner, and other publications

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