Court Rejects the American Atheists’ challenge to the famed “Ground Zero Cross” in the National September 11 Museum

Court Rejects the American Atheists’ challenge to the famed “Ground Zero Cross” in the National September 11 Museum July 30, 2014


Great news!!

The ACLJ reports:

In a decision that represents a ringing affirmation of the presence of faith in the life of our nation, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the American Atheists’ challenge to including the famed “Ground Zero Cross” in the National September 11 Museum.

While the entire opinion is worth reading, two excerpts were particularly important. First, the court unequivocally rejected the most dangerous aspect of American Atheists’ challenge – the argument that acknowledging the historical importance of faith constitutes improper “religious promotion.” To the contrary, the “accurate account of human history” often “requires reference to religion:”

American Atheists point to no precedent holding that when a religious symbol or artifact with genuine historical significance is included in a public historical display, the actual purpose is necessarily religious promotion. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has long recognized that an accurate account of human history frequently requires reference to religion: “The history of man is inseparable from the history of religion.” Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 434 (1962). Indeed, as Justice Jackson observed in Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948) (Jackson, J., concurring), “it is a proper, if not an indispensable, part of preparation for a worldly life to know the roles that religion and religions have played in the tragic story of mankind. The fact is that, for good or for ill, nearly everything in our culture worth transmitting, everything that gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences,” id.

Next, once the display is constitutionally appropriate, it is up to the museum to determine which artifacts to display. It is not up to offended observers to determine how a museum tells the story of our shared history. Here, the court relied on our ACLJ Supreme Court case, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum:

As American Atheists acknowledge, appellees’ choice as to which artifacts to display in recounting the history of the September 11 attacks is a form of government speech. Individuals will generally not be heard to complain that government speech favors one viewpoint over another unless, in the context of a religious discrimination claim, the challenged speech violates the Establishment Clause. See Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U.S. 460, 467–68 (2009) (collecting cases recognizing that “[i]t is the very business of government to favor and disfavor points of view,” and that a government entity is “entitled to say what it wishes . . . and to select the views it wants to express” as long as its speech “comport[s] with the Establishment Clause”

It’s not over, but it’s a great development in a case that many Americans are watching closely.  As the ACLJ reports, “The Second Circuit’s opinion represents a profound defeat for those who wish to drive faith not just out of the public square, but out of public memory. We are thankful for this victory for the Constitution, our national heritage, and for common sense.”

Read the ACLJ’s coverage here.

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  • Fred Brewster

    It was great to hear about this ruling. We can not ever satisfy all people. As a Mayflower descendant I have studied and read enough into the history of my own family to learn why they came to this country in 1620. I feel this ruling was consistent with that boat load of pilgrim’s reasons for making that perilous journey to the New World. May God continue to bless America, even for those who do not wish or accept.

    • cant_believe_it

      Wow, how impressive, as a Mayflower descendant you must know first hand that nothing good can come from people choosing by themselves what and who they want and don’t want to believe in. So keep the good news coming, let’s force our religion on everyone, even if they don’t want it,
      because that’s exactly why the pilgrims came to this country!

      • Fred Brewster

        Who said anyone was forcing anything? The object that was being discussed was found in the remains. To say that now anyone is being is as extreme as the PC police running rampant in our society today. Perhaps you would rather enjoy life under ISIS? I am very happy to live in a country where varied beliefs can all rub shoulders. You are the one with the extreme views who can not stand to tolerate anyone with moderate views. BTW before you go on a rant about the intolerance of the early settlers next, don’t confuse the pilgrims with the puritans. You see, the pilgrims were much more open to others while the puritans were more harsh.

  • Samuel Stein

    This is such wonderful news. Thank you for sharing it, Bristol. Praise God for this victory.

  • LisaGinNZ

    Excellent news, thanks!