(Photo: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has filed court papers seeking to throw out last year's lawsuit by American Atheists Inc. against the planned presentation of the iconic World Trade Center cross-shaped steel beam.
In its court papers, the museum has challenged the validity of the New Jersey-based atheist group's argument in the August 2011 suit that the cross-shaped steel beam will impose religion "through the power of the state," CBS News said Friday.
The museum argues that it is an "independent non-profit corporation," and not a government body. It also says the cross is an "important and essential artifact" that "belongs at the World Trade Center site as it comprises a key component of the re-telling of the story of 9/11."
However, the atheist group's president David Silverman is still objecting, saying the cross does not represent non-Christians.
"This shrine is a cross," Silverman was quoted as saying. "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."
Silverman added that the cross was 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."
The atheist group demands that the cross be removed or for the museum to acknowledge everybody else who died in the terror attack.
"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," Silverman said. "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."
Many individual atheists openly spoke against American Atheists after it filed the lawsuit last year. Susan Jacoby, an atheist contributor of The Washington Post, described the group as having "an unerring nose for the scent of publicity," their suit "nonsense," and their leader, "obtuse."