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WTC Cross Lawsuit

Support the WTC Cross Lawsuit filed by American Atheists, a non-profit educational foundation with the aims and purposes of upholding the Separation of Church and State and fighting for equal rights for non-theists.

Website: http://atheists.org
Location: National
Members: 13
Latest Activity: Dec 11, 2011

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Comment by Blair Scott on August 24, 2011 at 4:13pm

PLANTIFF ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE GIRDER CROSS

  • The WTC Girder Cross is a violent insult against all non-Christians who suffered in the 9/11 attacks.  It marginalizes and renders invisible all those who do not share in the Christian faith or in the worship of this symbol.
  • Given the millions of tax dollars provided to build the museum, this insertion of religious typography is a clear violation of the separation of church and state mandated in the Establishment clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.  The government has permitted a symbol of Christianity to represent all Americans in the 9/11 tragedy.
  • The tax dollars and governement resources spent on the 9/11 Memorial & Museum also violate Article 1, Sections 3 and 11 of the New York State Constitution.
  • The 9/11 Memorial & Museum clearly also falls under the jurisdiction of Article 4, Section 40 of New York’s Civil Rights Act, which specifically includes “any such public library, kindergarten, primary and secondary school, academy, college, university, professional school, extension course, or other educational facility, supported in whole or in part by public funds or by constributions solicited from the general public.” The same article specifically prohibits the privileging of any one religious or racial group over any other at such institutions.
  • Providing a symbol of one religious denomination to represent the victims of the 9/11 attacks is discriminatory against all other religious and secular groups that suffered similar losses in their own communities.
  • The 9/11 attack was religiously motivated.  It is not just insenstive, but morally outrageous that such evil should be honored and memorialized in this memorial with religious symbols.
  • It is equally outrageous to include and accommodate an icon in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum that represents the idea that “God never left us on 9/11” when such God failed to step in to save the almost 2,800 human beings that perished on that day.
  • The 9/11 girder cross in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is not only insensitive, but hypocritical. Those who opposed the establishment of a private Muslim community center near to but unconnected with the 9/11 attacks or the World Trade Center as ‘insensitive’ have far more reason to complain of insensitivity with the placement of another reminder of religion placed not just nearby, but within the very bowels of the memorial.
  • The 9/11 girder cross does not represent all of the victims. Among the 2,792 individuals documented as having perished in the 9/11 attack, at least 31 were Muslim Americans, approximately 400-500 were Jewish Americans, and approximately 500 of Americans held no religious beliefs, based on disclosures made by the victims’ families. And those are only the ones we know, the actual numbers of non-Christians who died are probably even higher.
  • Using a symbol, religious or otherwise, which clearly represents only one segment of US society is a betrayal of the foundational American value of the diversity and plurality of Americans as indicated in the national motto: E Pluribus Unum, From Many, One.
  • The WTCMF’s website, www.911Memorial.org, which is a major tool for the WTCMF and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to solicit contributions from the general public, misleads and hides the fact that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum contains and prominently displays the 9/11 girder cross.
  • If this religious symbol is allowed to stand in this taxpayer-funded and public memorial, it will set a precedent that will further undermine and render impotent the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution as well as similar clauses in most, if not all, the US state constitutions, including the state constitution of New York.
Comment by Blair Scott on August 24, 2011 at 4:10pm

FACTS OF THE LAWSUIT

  • The four individual plaintiffs – Jane Everhart, Dennis Horvitz, Kenneth Bronstein, and Mark Panzarino – are US citizens and residents of New York City as well as members in good standing of American Atheists, Inc.
  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), along with the City of New York, own the land on which the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has been built.  PANYNJ has also played a material part in the development and construction of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), funded with $10 billion in federal funds to rebuild downtown Manhatten after the 9/11 tragedy, provided the funding for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation (WTCMF) is a 501(c)(3) non-religious non-profit organization responsible for developing and constructing the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • The WTCMF received $79,252,830 in unrestricted government funding for its purposes in 2009; and $69,452,552 in unrestricted government funding in 2010. These amounts constituted approximately 59% of the total funding the WTCMF received for the construction of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • In August 2010, Congress instructed the US Mint to strike 9/11 Commemorative medals to raise public funds for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  Proceeds from the sale of those medals were directed to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • It is estimated that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will attract over 5 million visitors, of all faiths and none, to the site. It is AA’s contention that part of the message they will get at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is that only Christians were affected by this tragedy and render all of the non-Christian victims as “illegitimate others” undeserving of recognition.
  • This lawsuit has been pursued in large measure because the memorial and other governmental authorities did not respond to any of the repeated requests for dialogue with our community over our expressed concerns.
Comment by G Smith on August 24, 2011 at 4:08pm
I'm wondering whether the Freedom From religion Foundation is pursuing this issue. I'm a member of FFrF.
Comment by Blair Scott on August 24, 2011 at 4:07pm

BACKGROUND:

The United States was attacked by Islamic militants on September 11, 2001. That attack included the destruction of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, New York City, where 2.792 individuals lost their lives.

Two days after the attack, construction workers found a steel girder intersection approximately 10 feet across and 17 feet high and weighing 4,000 pounds (2 tons) amongst the rubble. By October 2001, the Franciscan (Catholic) friar Brian Jordan came and ‘blessed’ this piece of building debris and began holding religious services at the site.

Eventually, the girder cross was removed to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on 22 Barclay Street, in Manhattan, exact date unknown.  While there, the girder set was further modified and trimmed to look more like the Latin cross of Christian tradition.

In 2002, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation was established, with a $10 billion grant from the US government, to rebuild downtown Manhattan.  Soon thereafter, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation (WTCMF) was established to begin designing a permanent memorial for those that died in the 9/11 attacks.

At about that same time, various groups began lobbying the WTCMF to include the girder cross in the final design of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.  American Atheists spoke out against that suggestion, making numerous appearances to civic and governmental groups as well as on national media denouncing the suggestion as a blatant violation of the First Amendment and exclusionary to non-Christian Americans.  It also offered to provide its own memorial artifact to be set next to the girder cross to honor all other Americans who died in the 9/11 attacks.  American Atheists never received any response to its complaints or its offer of an additional memorial artifact.

The WTCMF completed the construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in July.  On July 23, the WTCMF arranged to have the girder cross brought back from St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church and dropped in through the roof of the museum to be placed on a mounting that the WTCMF had built specifically for that purpose. The girder cross was then immediately consecrated in a private religious ceremony by Brian Jordan, the same Franciscan friar who originally claimed the girder cross to be a religious icon soon after it had been discovered.  No other religious or secular representatives were invited to the event.

On 26 July, 2011, American Atheists filed suit against PANYNJ, the states of New York and New Jersey; their governors; the City of New York; the mayor of New York City; the Lower Manhatten Development Corporation; the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation; World Trade Center Properties, LLC; the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus; and Friar Brian Jordan.

 

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