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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 Joan Denoo on December 11, 2011 at 1:43am

I like your talking points and clarity of goals and strategies.  I am glad to be part of this effort. 

Comment by Regina Goodwin on November 12, 2011 at 4:35am

I'm new here too.

Comment by Steph S. on October 9, 2011 at 10:01am
Hi everyone! New here.
Comment by Chris Dodds on September 2, 2011 at 1:51pm
I'm wondeirng if the fact that Mayor Bloomberg is siding with us on this issue will have any impact on the ultimate decision of whether or not the WTC cross is found to a violation of the separation of church and state.
Comment by Blair Scott on August 25, 2011 at 1:29pm

WTC CROSS SUPPORTER CAMPAIGN!

 

CAMPAIGN DETAILS

 

As the 9/11 anniversary approaches, the event and the newly-opened Memorial will be prominent in the national and local news media. To bring attention to the injustice that the WTCMF has perpetrated in its inclusion of the girder cross, we are asking all of our supporters to participate in a coordinated action the week prior to September 11. Every day, from Monday, September 5 through Saturday, September 10, we will be sending out a request to contact one of the targets of our campaign each day to remind them of this injustice and to insist that it be corrected.

 

Here’s the schedule of actions we’ll be asking you to take:

 

Monday, September 5: Send emails to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum committee through one of the two petition websites that we’ll have set up for this purpose. (We’ll send you the URLs of those websites on Sunday, September 4.)

 

Tuesday, September 6: Send LTEs (Letters to the Editor) to your local newspaper or other media source. (Because we don’t have a database of all of the local media contacts across the country, we’re asking you to research this ahead of time so that you’ll have that information in time for this action.) Feel free to use, in part, in whole, or as a mix, any of the sample letters to the editor on this website for your message.

 

Wednesday, September 7: Make phone calls and/or send emails and letters to New York and US legislators and executives, through one of the two petition websites you used on Monday, September 5.

 

We’ll be sending out reminders for these actions throughout the week to all of you who have joined our campaign.

 

If we reach a critical mass, we anticipate this campaign to generate all sorts of media buzz that should appear as part of the 9/11 Memorial coverage leading up to and on Sunday, September 11 and help explain our side as to why the girder cross included in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is so wrong.

 

Tell your friends about this campaign and encourage them to sign up to participate! Let’s finally put a stop to the religious injustice and bigotry against atheists that has come to dominate so much of US politics!

Comment by Blair Scott on August 25, 2011 at 1:28pm

SAMPLE LETTERS TO EDITORS

 

Write a letter to your local newspaper in support of the WTC Cross Lawsuit! Below are some sample letters to give you an idea. You are, of course, free to copy and paste, but add your personal spin or just use our samples as a template to write your own unique letter. We ask that you send your letters to your local newspaper on 9/6 as part of a coordinated campaign (see http://www.facebook.com/notes/wtc-cross-lawsuit/wtc-cross-supporter... or the next post up here on A/N for details).

 

Dear Editor:

 

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, I am most disheartened to learn that the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which just opened last month, has chosen to include a very divisive and symbol that excludes and marginalizes non-Christian victims of those attacks.

 

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, funded largely with taxpayer money, should recognize and honor all of the victims of 9/11, not just the Christian ones. It dishonors the victims to turn the museum into the latest ideological battleground over the First Amendment.

 

 

Dear Editor:

 

It amazes me that the memorial for the 9/11 attacks – attacks which were motivated by religious intolerance and hate – would include a religious symbol as the center of its memorial! What a slap in the face to all Americans to have divisive religion yet again shoved in our face in a memorial that should have brought all Americans together.

 

 

Dear Editor:

 

I support American Atheists’ campaign to demand inclusivity in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

Although Christians certainly were among the victims of 9/11, upwards of 40% of the victims were identified by their families as holding other faiths or no faiths. Jews, Hindus, Muslims and atheists were all among the victims.

 

For shame that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, funded with our taxpayer dollars, chose to exploit this tragedy to promote their own ideological agenda and mount a 16-foot cross in the memorial. Aside from the Constitutional issues, the bitter irony of choosing to use a religious symbol to represent the victims of a religiously-motivated attack is unconscionable.

 

 

Dear Editor:

 

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the lawsuit filed by American Atheists over the cross included in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum; but did you now that they tried to engage memorial officials for 9 years before finally resorting to the lawsuit? The question I have is, why did memorial and government officials refuse to even acknowledge their concerns, let alone be willing to sit down and listen to them? What other choice did those officials give American Atheists to allow their concerns a fair hearing?

 

 

Dear Editor:

 

It is outrageous that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum would have chosen to place a representation of the Christian Latin cross in its museum. One of the most well-established causes of the 9/11 attacks was because of religious sectarianism. Not only is the cross a grim and gory reminder of that cause, it represents yet another effort to do that exact same thing, to impose a religious ideology on the rest of us. The cross also mocks the fact that almost 3,000 people perished in the WTC attacks without any divine intervention whatsoever. Just on the basis of human decency, this symbol is about the most insensitive choice the WTCMF could have made to memorialize that national tragedy.

Comment by Blair Scott on August 24, 2011 at 4:26pm

TALKING POINTS

  • The 9/11 girder cross is divisive and exclusionary. It excludes upwards of 40% of the victims who perished in the 9/11 attacks.
  • The 9/11 girder cross is offensive. It is a reminder that religion was the motivation for the 9/11 attacks, and perversely celebrates that cause.
  • The 9/11 girder cross placed in a taxpayer-funded memorial is an obvious and blatant violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, as well as similar clauses in most all of the other state constitutions.
  • If this cross was allowed to remain in the 9/11 Memorial by itself, it would set a terrible precedent and eviscerate what remains of the Establishment Clause.
  • We think that including only symbols and displays that represent all of the victims and their families is the proper policy and practice of the 9/11 Memorial. However, if the memorial officials decide that they will include symbols that exclude some of these victims, then American Atheists insists that an equivalent symbol for our community be included as well.
  • The WTCMF realizes that this cross was controversial, as evidenced by the dishonest omission of its mention on its fundraising website, the covert planning done to install the cross, and the after-the-fact actions to attempt to “ecumenicize” the installation.
  • This is not an issue for atheist rights. This is an issue of civil rights for all Americans to protect the American value of liberty and freedom for all, E Pluribus Unum.
Comment by Blair Scott on August 24, 2011 at 4:25pm

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (& ANSWERS)

  • Why are you choosing to launch a lawsuit on this issue at this time?

There are constitutional church-state violations going on all over the United States all of the time, but this memorial is in regards to a highly emotional incident that touches on the hearts of almost all Americans.

American Atheists has regularly and consistently attempted to bring our concerns about including the girder cross in the 9/11 Memorial to memorial and other government officials ever since we first heard the idea suggested in 2002. Those efforts have been ignored: Not only has there been no effort by memorial officials to communicate with us to seek an acceptable solution for all parties, there has been no recognition by anyone involved with the memorial that our concerns were even heard.  When the cross was placed in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, we were left with no other choice but to file a lawsuit.

  • The 9/11 Memorial Commission has promised to include a Jewish Star of David and other Jewish memorabilia in the memorial. Wouldn’t this satisfy your demands of equality?

It is absurd to think that adding a prayer shawl and a torah in a display next to a 17-foot, 4,000 pound girder cross is going to provide equal inclusion. And adding one more religious symbol to this memorial only confirms the legitimacy of our lawsuit. Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists all died in 9/11. We need and expect a memorial that honors all Americans, not just the Christian and Jewish ones.

It seems to us a bit absurd to attempt to address our concerns by including symbols for every minority group. If every minority group touched by 9/11 tried to include their own memorial symbol, especially one that matched the size of the girder cross, it would take up all of the space in the museum many times over.  The much more practical way to address our concerns would be to leave divisive and exclusionary symbols like the girder cross out of the museum and include only artifacts and displays that include and represent all of the victims and their families. And the rest of the museum is full of such inclusive symbols and displays.  But that’s a choice the 9/11 Memorial Committee would have to make. We’re not trying to dictate how they choose to address our concerns, only that they do address them.

  • Why are you wasting the memorial committee’s time and resources in bringing up this frivolous court action? You’re going to lose anyway.

The question is why did the government and memorial officials refuse to engage with us when we repeatedly raised our concerns? Despite extensive lobbying and education efforts on our part to memorial officials over the past 9 years, we received absolutely no response to enter into any dialogue. At the point where this girder-cross was inserted into the WTC Memorial, we were left with no other choice to avoid the precedent becoming set.

  • Why a lawsuit? Aren’t there much less offensive ways of getting your point across?

American Atheists spends much, most of its time in advocacy and education, lobbying and educating our elected officials and sponsoring educational forums. We spent considerable resources over the past nine years attempting to engage memorial and government officials on our concerns with the insertion of the girder cross in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Despite that effort, we received absolutely no response to enter into any dialogue. At the point where this girder-cross was inserted into the WTC Memorial, we were left with no other choice but to seek legal relief to avoid the precedent becoming set.

  • If you are so sure of your position, why do you suppose government officials were so willing to do this?

Religion in this country has had over 200 years to raise money, frame issues, and lobby our government to undermine the Constitutional underpinnings of our First Amendment. The atheist community has a long way to go to catch up to that level of lobbying to insist that our rights be respected and enforced.

  • A lot of people are quite angry over the lawsuit. Why would you be attacking something that obviously a lot of people gained much comfort from after the devastation? Aren’t you infringing on people’s freedom of religion?

We’re not infringing or attacking anyone’s right of conscience. We’re actually fighting to uphold the American principle of freedom of religion for all religious communities that have been marginalized and rendered invisible by this sectarian display. We are attacking the choices made by our government to provide taxpayer funding for what now appears intended to be a sectarian memorial for one particular religious community.

  • Obviously a lot of people gained much comfort from the cross after the devastation, and the girder-cross is certainly a part of history. Aren’t you trying to deny that comfort and history from Americans?

One of the most well-established causes of the 9/11 attacks are because of religious sectarianism.  Not only is the cross a grim and gory reminder of that cause, it represents yet another effort to do that exact same thing, to impose a religious ideology on the rest of us. The cross also mocks the fact that almost 3,000 people perished in the WTC attacks without any divine intervention whatsoever. Just on the basis of human decency, this symbol is about the most insensitive choice the 9/11 Memorial Foundation could have made to memorialize that national tragedy.

Is it historical? Hardly. The girder cross is a piece of rubble which would have been hauled off and placed in a landfill if a Christian group had not carted it off from the attack site and kept it in storage until they could return it to the site as a religious memorial.

Nonetheless, one of the tests under the First Amendment is whether a governmen­tal action "has the effect of promoting a particular religion." So from that perspec­tive, it doesn't matter whether this is a piece of history and was intended as nothing more than part of a display about how Americans reacted to the cross.  When you set a 20-foot cross next to a prayer shawl and copy of the Torah, the cross dominates. The effect is that Christianity dominates. And, therefore, Christianity is promoted. Regardless of intent, if the result is such a promotion, the First Amendment has been violated. That's why case law exists concerning equal space, which is what we are demanding.

People gain comfort from other people who share their views and perspectives, and such groups often find that commonality through shared symbols.  The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is loaded with such common symbols that represent all of the 9/11 victims and their families. But the girder cross is not one of them. It’s a symbol shared and appreciated by only one segment of Americans, not all of us. Its disharmony with the rest of the symbols of shared tragedy on the 9/11 Memorial site only add to its jarring effect to those of us outside the Christian community.

  • How is this memorial cross hurting you?

The US government has spent millions of dollars on the WTC Memorial. If it was meant to be a sectarian memorial, it should have been funded by private sources.

  • So it’s just a taxpayer issue, rather than a moral one?

The placement of this cross in a taxpayer-funded memorial intended to represent and touch all Americans is a searing betrayal of the civil liberties and values upon which this country was founded, and which were enshrined in the First Amend­ment of the US Constitution.  It is a mockery of the very values which the 9/11 terrorists despised and which they themselves had hoped to undermine in their attack.

In spite of those Constitutionally-enshrined civil liberties, atheists are second-class citizens in this country. Numerous surveys indicate that atheists are the most distrusted, most disliked minority in the USA. Our own government military service designates atheists as “spiritually unfit”; our children are mocked and harassed in school by other children and teachers. Our government actively funds and promotes an active and ongoing bias and discrimination against our community. This goes way beyond a simple taxpayer issue.

  • Aren’t there plenty of crosses in museums, in public cemeteries, and even on government land? The Arlington Memorial Cemetery is filled with Christian crosses. Why should this particular cross be treated any differently?

Unlike those other displays, this would be the first Christian cross (or any other religious artifact) to be installed in a taxpayer-funded museum in a religious ceremony. It was also done under protest by taxpayers in good standing; and when the lawsuit was filed, the memorial plans were changed after-the-fact to intentionally include other religious artifacts. These circumstances give a strong case that the very purpose and intent of the installation was religious, which is much harder to demonstrate with other cross installations.

Standing is partly based on responding at the earliest opportunity when a constitutional violation is noted. Other crosses were mounted at a time and place where there was no current objection or reason to object (the land or building was originally private property, etc.). To preserve our standing, American Atheists had to act as soon as the Constitutional violation was effected.

The Arlington Memorial Cemetery includes a memorial marker for each gravesite at the cemetery. Families are free to choose from a variety of markers, including one that includes an atheist symbol. We don’t have any problem with that. But that is very different from the one, huge, religious token being installed at the WTC Memorial: The Memorial does not speak for or represent one American; it represents and speaks for all of us. Or at least it should. This girder-cross marginalizes and excludes those who do not share the Christian worldview and beliefs, and does so at government expense.

  • Isn’t it presumptuous for American Atheists to offer a memorial of their own organization symbol to speak for all non-theists?

While American Atheists has offered to fund and provide an equivalent memorial to the 9/11 girder cross (an offer that we have made multiple times over the past few years but without response), we have not offered or even considered any designs yet. It would be premature to do so prior to any indication from the WTCMF that they would consider including any such memorial. Should they provide such indication, American Atheists would seek as wide a range of opinions and suggestions as we could get for what the final design might be.

  • The US was clearly founded as a Christian nation, and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was intended only to keep the US government from establishing a national church.  The girder cross doesn’t establish a national church and only reflects the heritage of our country.

This is a bit irrelevant from the issue around the 9/11 cross, but contains enough loaded terms based on factual errors to deserve correction.

The US is not a ‘Christian’ nation, any more than it is a ‘female’ nation or a ‘white’ nation or a ‘right-handed’ nation.  Characteristics held by a majority of people in a country do not, in fact, determine the character of the country as a whole or the values held by that country’s government. The US is, in fact, a secular republic – the first in modern history! – founded on the US Constitution and the rights therein, among which include the First Amendment and freedom of conscience, which are based on the uniquely American values of religious tolerance and diversity.

Nor is it accurate to portray the US as ‘a Christian’ (singular) nation. There is no one version of Christianity that a majority of Americans practice or believe. According to Wikipedia.org, there are over 1,000 different Christian sects in the United States, and their beliefs run the gamut from Unitarians who believe the Bible stories to be allegorical to the staunch Calvinists of the Christian Reconstructionists who believe that the Bible is inerrant.  Most of those sects believe all of the other sects to be heretics and infidels. It would be more accurate (but still wrong) to claim that the US is ‘a nation of Christianities’.

It would seem self-evident that the government of the United States is not based in any way on Christianity, as the Bible makes no mention of elections by the people, separation of powers, or even human rights; and the US Constitution makes no mention of any such religious roots. The intent of the founders of this country in regards to ‘Christian Nation’ status were stated with crystal clarity in the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by the Washington administration and signed with the Muslim Berbers under the Adams administration in 1797 and unanimously ratified by the US Senate.  It starts off with the very plain assertion that “...the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”  The idea that the First Amendment was intended to ward off a national church is a recent construction by religious advocates that has no basis in the founding documents of this country.

Article VII of the US Constitution also states that any international treaties that the US signs are a part of US Constitutional law. In 1947, the US signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, later renamed the International Bill of Human Rights.  The IBHR expands the rights of freedom of conscience and separation between government and religion.  Those expanded rights are now part of US Constitutional law.

Comment by G Smith on August 24, 2011 at 4:21pm
I'd like to know whether those girders were found exactly as they are now, or perhaps they were "intelligently designed".  :P
Comment by Daniel B on August 24, 2011 at 4:18pm
Are there any pictures of these girders before they "trimmed them up"?  Thanks!
 

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