(Photo: Reuters /Peter Morgan)
NEW YORK – About 7 in 10 Americans support the inclusion of the 9/11 cross in a memorial at the World Trade Center, a national poll reported Wednesday.
Most Americans surveyed by Rasmussen Reports on their views of separation of church and state see no problem with a cross being enshrined at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
The survey asked 1,000 adults to share their opinion about the group of atheists suing to keep the steel cross, known as the World Trade Center cross or 9/11 cross, from being included in the memorial at the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The majority of survey participants, 68 percent, believe the U.S. Constitution calls for the separation of church and state.
Yet, 72 percent of respondents say they are in favor of having the cross included in the World Trade Center memorial – a result that indicates Americans see no church-state violation with the 9/11 cross.
Ten percent say they are opposed to the cross and 17 percent are undecided.
The American Atheists filed a lawsuit last week seeking to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, slated to open on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The group demanded that unless the cross be accompanied by religious symbols of other faiths in the memorial, it should be taken out.
According to the lawsuit, American Atheists believes that the installation of the cross at the museum “constitutes an unlawful attempt to promote a specific religion on governmental land” and is “repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.”
The lawsuit names the museum, New York, New Jersey, as well as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as defendants.
Bloomberg, responding to the lawsuit in a recent radio address, said American Atheists have a constitutional right to sue but that those who found strength and hope in the makeshift cross also have a right to apply importance to the Christian symbol.
"This influenced people. It gave them strength," Bloomberg said last Friday. "In a museum, you want to show things that impacted people's behavior back then even if you don't think it was right. It's history. Museums are for history and to teach people by example, well this is what people did back then and you are free to make your own decision."
Bloomberg also noted that other religious symbols, such as a Star of David and a Bible, would be on display at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
The controversial lawsuit has also elicited a response from Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus.
Forbes slammed the lawsuit last week, calling American Atheists' legal efforts to block the cross “sad and misguided.”
"The attempt to remove the cross is another sad and misguided example of incessant efforts to remove all religious symbols from public life," Forbes said. "To remove this cross, a physical part of the history of that tragic day, would be an insult to the many who found solace in its symbolism."
American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group, said it plans to file a friend-to -the-court brief in support of the cross.
The iconic World Trade Center cross, made up of two intersecting steel beams found intact amid the rubble of the 2001 terrorist attacks in downtown New York City, was placed inside the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on July 23.
It was originally erected on Church St. on the side of St. Peter's Church, the oldest Catholic parish in New York.
The museum, whose mission is to remember and honor the 3,000 people killed in the 1993 and 2001 terror attacks, invites the public to submit items to commemorate those who died during the attacks. It will open for a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Sept. 11, 2011 and to the public the day after.
The Rasmussen Reports survey was conducted on July 29-30, 2011.