An appeals court has ruled against an atheist organization that was suing to have a cross removed from the National September 11 Museum.
A three-judge panel from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that "the cross at Ground Zero" at the museum does not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"American Atheists contend that the Port Authority and the foundation impermissibly promote Christianity in violation of the Establishment Clause and deny atheists equal protection of the laws by displaying the cross at Ground Zero in the museum unaccompanied by some item acknowledging that atheists were among the victims and rescuers on September 11," read the opinion.
"American Atheists acknowledge that there is no historic artifact that speaks particularly to the loss of atheists' lives or to atheists' rescue efforts … we conclude that American Atheists' challenge fails on the merits. Accordingly, we hereby affirm the judgment in favor of appellees."
Opened in 2014, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum contains several artifacts and items relevant to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.
These included photographs, mementos, two fire trucks, an ambulance, part of the World Trade Center's facade and the last column that was removed from ground zero.
It also included a 17-foot-tall intersection of two beams from the ruins of the Twin Towers that bore resemblance to a Latin cross.
In 2011, New Jersey-based American Atheists filed a lawsuit against the planned presentation of the cross, arguing it will impose religion "through the power of the state."
"They're trying to Christianize 9/11 with this cross and it's not American and it's not fair," stated David Silverman, president of American Atheists.
In March 2013, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled against American Atheists, arguing that the cross did not violate the civil or constitutional rights of non-theists.
"No reasonable observer would view the artifact is endorsing Christianity," wrote Batts. "The Museum's purpose is to tell the history surrounding Sept. 11, and the cross … helps tell part of that history."
The American Center for Law and Justice, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of the cross, released a statement Monday praising the decision.
"The American Atheists will likely appeal this decision, so the case is not yet over, but the Second Circuit's opinion represents a profound defeat for those who wish to drive faith not just out of the public square, but out of public memory," stated the ACLJ.
"We are thankful for this victory for the Constitution, our national heritage, and for common sense."