This is a guest post by Stef McGraw. Stef is a Junior at the University of Northern Iowa, and is a member of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI) .
After being discussed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show this past Thursday, it’s now more than just the atheist community debating the so-called “9/11 cross.” The controversy, for those who don’t know, is over whether or not two beams that formed a cross in the Ground Zero rubble should be displayed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. American Atheists, led by Dave Silverman, has filed a lawsuit against the museum on the grounds that the symbol of one specific religion should not be displayed without the inclusion of the symbols of other religions and the nonreligious.
Like buzz around most hot-button issues, there is at least one misconception that is muddying the discussion and keeping it from being productive; in this case, it is the new location of the cross. People keep saying they don’t think it’s right for only a cross to be displayed at the memorial, but the fact of the matter is that it is not the memorial itself, but the memorial museum that will house the beams.
That’s a distinction that, at least for me, “makes or breaks” whether or not I support the cross being displayed. As laid out eloquently in a post by James Croft, the museum does not seek to support a particular viewpoint, but rather to do its best at documenting all that is relevant to the 9/11 attacks; a cross from the rubble that came to symbolize hope and comfort to many citizens is an important piece of history in the reactions to 9/11 and is therefore relevant, regardless of personal feelings about it.
I don’t disagree that if the cross were to be the sole religious symbol at the memorial itself, it would be disrespectful to those of other religions and the nonreligious. But that’s not the reality of the situation, and this fact should be recognized before standing behind the American Atheists in this cause.