An atheist group filed a lawsuit Monday in the New York State Supreme Court seeking the removal of a Christian cross from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum being constructed at ground zero.
The national organization American Atheist claims that placing a symbol of Christianity on government-owned property is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of New York.
The 20-foot-tall cross is made of steel beams found in the rubble of the World Trade Center and was installed at the memorial on July 23 in a religious ceremony, where it was blessed by a Franciscan Friar.
“We love this country, and our constitution,” the group said in a statement. “We honor the dead and respect the families, which is why we will not allow the many Christians who died get preferential representation over the many non-Christians who suffered the same fate. This was an attack against America, not Christianity, and Christianity’s does not deserve special placement just because the girders look like their religious symbol.”
Their legal complaint (PDF) notes that the September 11 Memorial and Museum will be constructed on a site owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and is largely funded by money from the government. The complaint also notes that other religious groups were not given the chance to have a similar faith-based memorial.
“The challenged cross constitutes an unlawful attempt to promote a specific religion on government land, diminishing the civil rights, privileges or capacities of atheist Americans, agnostic Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, and all others who are not Christian Americans,” the complaint reads.
“Because the challenged cross promotes Christianity over all other religions, it also denies non-Christian Americans equal protection under the laws of the land. As such, the challenged cross is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.”
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