ON-Lion Letter

Recognizing the important role that religion plays in society, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an order in July rejecting the effort by the American Atheists organization to force the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City 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,” according to Eric Baxter, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., which filed an amicus curiae, or "friend-of-the-court," 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 Second Circuit'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,” The Becket Fund's Baxter said.  “Displaying the cross in a display about ‘Finding Meaning at Ground Zero’ is perfectly appropriate.”

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports The Becket Fund.

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