ALBANY, N.Y. — An atheist group’s lawsuit that seeks to tear down the World Trade Center cross at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City is completely out of step with the Constitution, according to attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF is currently fighting a different lawsuit filed by the same group that seeks to tear down roadside crosses honoring fallen state troopers in the state of Utah. That case is on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“One atheist group’s agenda shouldn’t diminish the sacrifice made by the heroes of 9/11,” said ADF Senior Counsel Byron Babione. “A cross like this one simply does not amount to a government establishment of religion under either the U.S. Constitution or the New York Constitution. The cross is not only known far and wide as a religious symbol, but also as a symbol of death, remembrance, and honor for the dead. Americans have long recognized this. Nothing in the Constitution authorizes atheists to scour the landscape on a mission to seek and destroy memorial crosses.”
American Atheists filed its lawsuit, American Atheists v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in New York state court Monday. In 2005, the group filed suit in federal court to tear down roadside crosses honoring fallen Utah highway patrol officers. ADF, which represents the Utah Highway Patrol Association, has appealed that case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In April 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that a veterans’ memorial in the form of a cross in the Mojave Desert of California did not have to be removed. In that ruling, the court wrote, “The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm…. The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society.”“Crosses have been used to honor fallen heroes in this country since its founding,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tom Marcelle, based in Albany. “ADF stands ready to defend the World Trade Center Cross in any way that it can, just as we have defended many other cross memorials throughout the country.”