A couple of weeks ago, a judge threw out American Atheists’ lawsuit against The National September 11 Memorial & Museum and its display of a 17-foot-tall steel beam cross. Judge Deborah Batts believed the giant cross was both “historical and secular” and not at all an endorsement of Christianity. (American Atheists didn’t see it that way and plans to appeal the ruling.)
In case it’s not clear — and it’s usually not in reports of this lawsuit — the atheists are just as patriotic as anyone else and supportive of the memorial overall. They just didn’t want one religion to be promoted, whatever the reason, when families who were not Christian weren’t given the same opportunity.
Earlier today, Mat Staver and Shawn Akers, both of the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, were talking about the lawsuit on the “Faith and Freedom” radio program. Akers suggested that, while Muslim extremists brought down the Twin Towers, American Atheists is trying to “finish the job”:
Akers: … if you think about the irony of what [American Atheists was] saying, it’s that one religion, or extremists from a particular religion, brought down the Twin Towers, but the atheists are coming in to finish the job. There’s one thing left, the one thing that was left standing that gave hope, that gave inspiration to the people on 9/11. I remember watching it on television. That, miraculously, this perfect cross survived, and people got hope from that. But now these atheists have come in and literally filed charges to try to bring this thing down.
We have very successfully gone into an age of religious McCarthyism where we’re seeking out religion as a nation to eradicate it in very forthright ways.
How’s that for Christian Hyperbole? I can’t believe I have to state the obvious here, but fighting for church/state separation, even in cases where the claims don’t hold up in court, is not even close to trying to “eradicate” religion. Atheists are fighting for neutrality, not special privilege.
I spoke with AA’s Public Relations Director Dave Muscato just now to get his reaction to the clip and this is what he told me:
It was never our preference to have the WTC Cross removed from the Memorial. What we want — what we deserve as Americans — is equality. The Constitution is clear that our government may not show preference for any one religion over others or over no religion.
We never wanted to take away the Cross: We understand that, as the symbol of Christianity, it is a source of comfort and hope for millions of Christians. We offered on multiple occasions to have our own symbol installed alongside it, at our expense, to give comfort and hope to the millions of atheists in this country, and to represent the approximately 500 atheists who died on 9/11.
Our position is that if a Christian religious symbol is displayed in the Memorial, then symbols representing other religions must be allowed in as well. And, indeed, there is a Star of David and some Hindu holy water in the Memorial for exactly this reason.
Why are atheists being denied that same right? That is the reason for American Atheists’ suit: Either everyone gets to participate, or no one can. There is no halfway when it comes to equality; it must be the same for everyone in order to be constitutional.
Staver and others have argued that the cross is more than just a religious symbol — it was on television during a presidential speech, it was written about at the time of the tragedy, and so it has a unique spot in history. It never crossed their mind, apparently, than when steel beams fall from on high, some of them may, in fact, coincidentally form a cross shape… it also never occurred to them that the reason it was featured so prominently in certain events in the days following 9/11 was because Christians are in the majority and a similarly found Mormon or Buddhist symbol would likely have just been ignored.
But forget that logic. It’s much easier to say Muslim extremists began 9/11 and atheists — who totally exhibit the same mentality, amirite?! — are just finishing what the terrorists started.
That’s the honest Christian Right way.
(via Right Wing Watch)