Curators with the 9/11 memorial museum in Manhattan are fighting back following a federal lawsuit filed by an atheist group in an attempt to have a steel beam cross removed from the facility over claims that it makes them mentally ill.
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, says that while museum directors have a right to chronicle the 2001 attack, the cross is inappropriate because it only relates to Christians.
“This shrine is a cross. It was picked up, trimmed, polished, the word ‘Jesus’ was carved on top of it, it was prayed over in front of a church for five years, and then it was installed in the WTC memorial with no warning by a priest in a religious service where in the ground was consecrated,” he said. “This is a working Christian shrine in the memorial, and then they had the gall to say it’s not religious in nature, that it represents everybody. That’s not true. It does not represent Jews, Muslims, Mormons or atheists, and they all had deaths on 9/11.”
Silverman also states that the cross poses a problem because it is stationed on public land.
“We’re talking about public lands. We’re talking about public funds. We’re talking about congressionally-ordered public funds. We’re talking about an 18-foot memorial. This is grossly inappropriate,” he opined. “We feel very strongly that this is an attempt to Christianize 9/11, to make it about Christians, even though it’s not about Christians at all.”
The lawsuit claims that the cross has caused individuals to suffer “depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish,” and even indigestion.
Last week, attorneys for the museum filed a motion in federal court asking the judge to throw out the case.
The cross at issue is a portion of steel beam that remained standing when the Twin Towers collapsed during the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The beam was in the shape of a cross that stood high amidst the rubble, which served as a symbol of hope and inspiration for many.
“I’m angry that we are being forced to defend this,” survivor Joe O’Connor told reporters. “It was very important to the people who were down there at the time.”
“They’re trying to [take away symbols of hope] a little at a time with these frivolous lawsuits,” he said. “Our country needs to stand tall. It’s so much easier to destroy than to create things.”
The cross, which is on display at the 9/11 memorial museum, is one of over 1,000 artifacts, photos, videos and other pieces that can be viewed daily by members of the general public.