Scrubbing History Clean of Religion
On this eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks comes a story about a group that makes a mockery of the occasion. It is the American Atheists Association, which has sued to remove the so-called “9/11 cross” from the National September 11 Museum in New York. At National Review Online, Nathaniel Botwinick explains this ludicrous example of American litigiousness:
The American Atheists organization has sued the National September 11 Memorial and Museum over the installation of the “9/11 cross” in the museum. The organization’s president, David Silverman, insists that it will not “allow this travesty to occur in our country.”
The 20-foot cross — two steel beams that had held together as the building collapsed — was discovered in the rubble of Ground Zero on September 13, 2001, by construction worker Frank Silecchia. The 9/11 cross became a venerated object, and many of those who were searching for survivors and clearing debris from the “pit” took solace from its existence. On October 4, 2001, it was moved to a pedestal on Church Street, where it was treated as a shrine by visitors to Ground Zero for the next five years. In October 2006 it was removed to storage, and in July 2011 it was returned to the site for installation in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
The cross will not be displayed in the memorial; it will be included in a section of the museum featuring ways workers sought to “[find] meaning at Ground Zero.” Its inclusion is for historical purposes, and not as a religious memorial. Yet the American Atheists decided that this was offensive and filed a lawsuit alleging that the display of the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, equal-protection laws, and civil-rights statutes.
So consider what the descendants of Madalyn Murray O’Hair consider to be a “travesty”: the display of an artifact from the largest terrorist attack in American history in a private museum, one which has a significant historical role as a focal point for people’s responses to the attacks. As Botwinick explains, the logical extension of this complaint would entail the removal of all religious art and artifacts (anything from photographs of churches to tiny statues of pregnant women associated with fertility cults in ancient Canaan) from museums across the country. Rembrandt, Titian, Rubens, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Tintoretto, El Greco, Raphael, Durer: put them all in a closet somewhere, lest the offend the delicate sensibilities of David Silverman and his fellow totalitarians.
Botwinick further explains that this suit has essentially no chance of success, based on the precedent of Lynch v. Donnelly, the 1984 Rhode Island creche case. The suit is worth mentioning only because it illustrates the ultimate goal of radical secularists, which is the complete elimination of religion from any setting save inside a religious building, a home, or one’s head. And truth be told, if they thought they could go farther than that, they would.
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