A group of atheists has filed a lawsuit challenging the so-called “World Trade Center Cross” included in an exhibit at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.
The group alleges that featuring the 17-foot cross-shaped beams, which come from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, violates the U.S. Constitution and publicly promotes Christianity over all other religions.
American Atheists, the plaintiff group in the suit, said in its complaint Wednesday: "Many of American Atheists’ members have seen the cross, either in person or on television, and are being subjected to and injured in consequence of having a religious tradition not their own imposed upon them through the power of the state."
Ground Zero rescue workers found the cross-shaped beams two days after the September 11th attacks. Later, it was moved to St. Peter's Church, a Roman Catholic parish near the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. On Saturday, the cross was moved from St. Peter's and lowered into its permanent home in the 9/11 museum.
In response to the lawsuit, the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation defended its placement to ABC News. The cross is a "symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at ground zero," the statement said. The foundation added that the cross is an "authentic physical reminder" that recalls "the story of 9/11 in a way nothing else can."
The foundation also disputed American Atheists' claim that including the cross in the museum's exhibit amounted to an endorsement of Christianity over other religions. A spokesman for the organization told ABC that other religious artifacts would be included in the exhibit, including a Jewish prayer shawl given by a victim's family member and a Star of David made from WTC steel.