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Court Rejects Atheists’ Attempt To Remove Ground Zero Cross from Museum Cross’s spiritual role at Ground Zero has historical significance

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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Washington, D.C. – Recognizing the important role that religion plays in society, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order on Monday rejecting the effort by American Atheists, Inc. to force the National 9/11 Museum to remove the Ground Zero Cross from its display or to include a plaque honoring atheists alongside the Cross.

“This is an enormously important and common-sense ruling,” said Eric Baxter, Counsel for Becket, who filed a brief supporting the Museum’s right to display the cross. “The Court draws an important distinction. Even though the Ground Zero Cross is unquestionably a religious symbol, and holds deep religious meaning for many people—particularly those who found hope and inspiration in its discovery—the government does not violate the Establishment Clause by recognizing and educating others about the actual role played by religion in our history and culture.”

The Court’s order recounts the tragedy of 9/11, and the horrific circumstances under which the rescue workers labored to find survivors and discusses how the discovery and subsequent use of the Cross in religious rituals became “a symbol of various positive expressions” including “a symbol of ‘hope, faith, and healing,’ of ‘the human spirit,’ and of ‘how people will care for each other at the worst moment in their life.’” “The history of 9/11 would not be complete without including the impact the Ground Zero Cross had in inspiring rescue workers and Americans generally,” said Baxter. “Displaying the cross in a display about ‘Finding Meaning at Ground Zero’ is perfectly appropriate.”

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”