Legal Battle over 9/11 Relic
August 23, 2012
A group of atheists, the American Atheists to be exact, represented by Edwin F. Kagin, brought a federal lawsuit against the National September 11 Memorial and Museum (the Museum) in opposition to the museum’s decision to display a giant cross-shaped steel beam that became a site of prayer during the work at ground zero in Downtown New York. On August 13, 2012, the Museum filed court papers to dismiss the lawsuit arguing, among other things, that as an independent nonprofit and not a government agency, it would not be violating the Constitution’s establishment clause and state civil-rights law by exhibiting a religious symbol.
As reported elsewhere, in its court papers, the museum states that the 17-foot beam is being exhibited as “a relic of the 2001 attack and not as a religious symbol.” It is perceived as an “important and essential artifact that belongs at the World Trade Center site as it comprises a key component of the retelling of the story of 9/11.”
Also, it is the museums position that “simply displaying an object with religious significance does not amount to endorsing or promoting a religion.”