Ground Zero Cross and American Atheists

Alana Marie Burke wrote a wonderful column for the online magazine Liberty Voice in opposition to the American Atheists argument that the cross displayed at the Ground Zero Memorial needs to be removed for it 1) violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and 2) “was causing people to suffer from anxiety, depression, ‘mental pain and anguish’ and indigestion.” 

Burke argues that, “The Ground Zero Cross is a significant part of the museum because after the attacks it became a symbol of hope to the grief-stricken in New York, the nation, and even across the globe.” She quotes Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel for the conservative The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, who believes that the cross was honored as a representation of all faiths. This could not be further from the truth.

In truth those who died in the World Trade Center on that faithful September morning included Jews, Hindus, Muslims and other faiths not represented by the symbol of the cross. In fact, many families of those non-Christians found that the Ground Zero Cross was non-representative of their faith and provided no solace. Baxter’s contention that those of other faith and of no faith found inspiration from the Christian symbol is simply wrong.

It is unfortunate that the cross appears as a natural artifact in and outside of nature. The symbolism is clear that any depiction of a cross is representative of the Christian faith alone; even then not all sects of Christianity.

Even the temporary sign placed on the Cross gives an indication that it is a religious symbol. The Cross was found on September 13 and “Blessed October 4, 2001.” The blessing alone gives the cross a religious meaning, not the mention the number of people who flock to the Cross in a religious pilgrimage.

When I visited the Memorial in 2014 and saw the cross, I was taken aback. As a non-Christian, the Cross offers my no comfort. Why should the Christian faith be represented when the other faiths of those who died are not? It wrongly reinforces a world view that the United States is a “Christian nation” and we are at war with all who are Muslim. Neither part of that statement is correct.

The American Atheists are to make their presentation to the court on July 14, 2014. They have been asked to show how the Ground Zero Cross “to provide further briefs on how the cross is ‘offensive’ and represents ‘constitutional injury.’”
            I believe the response is straight forward. The Cross has been a symbol of the Christian faith for 2000 years. Simply stating that it is now a secular symbol for all faiths is incorrect and is repulsive to Jews, Muslims, Hindus and atheists alike. Like the Christmas tree, there is a specific history behind the symbol of the Cross that needs to be taken into consideration in the court’s determination. Neither can be considered secular in nature.

It is a piece of steel and nothing more that has been given religious significance through imagery.  Yet the Ground Zero Cross has been seen as a religious symbol by Christians visiting the World Trade Center Memorial since its dedication. It has been prayed to and worshiped as something sacred.

If the Ground Zero Memorial is government sponsored, as it is, and if the Ground Zero Cross has been dedicated as a religious symbol for the Christian community, as it has been, then it should be taken down. 

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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