NEW YORK – A cross-shaped steel beam dug out from the World Trade Center’s rubble after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is at the center of a religious battle.
The 9-11 Memorial Committee has asked a Manhattan court this week to toss out a lawsuit brought on by American Atheist Inc.
The lawsuit that the group filed last year claims that government is imposing religion on atheists, and that the cross should not be displayed in the memorial’s museum which was scheduled to open this year.
Marissa Torres Langseth is a member of American Atheist and the founder of the Philippine Atheist and Agnostic Society, she says the group just wants the memorial to be neutral.
According to legal documents, lawyers for the September 11 Memorial says the memorial is an independent non-profit group and that there is no legal authority to prohibit a museum from displaying a historical, cultural or artistic item because it also has religious significance.
Father Joseph Marabe remembers 9-11. He was at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral that day, as many came to the church to pray. He believes as a historic artifact by a non-profit organization, he sees no reason why the cross should not be displayed at the museum. “I think there’s no problem in having that cross which they believe has been a symbol for them of the pain of the terrorist attacks,” said Marabe.
Filipino visitors, especially Catholics at Ground Zero say they would welcome the cross at the exhibit.
“I grew up as a Catholic, and it’s a sign of our faith. It’s just proper,” one Filipino said.
The cross was originally placed outside a church near Ground Zero and had become a makeshift memorial.
Last year, it was brought underground where it will be part of a museum exhibit.