Stop the Atheists at Ground Zero

It was one of the most iconic images that emerged from the smoke and rubble of Ground Zero in New York City after 9/11.  Two intersecting steel beams from the once-massive World Trade Center structure survived the collapse of the globe's most recognizable towers and rose from the ashes as a fitting symbol not just of lives lost, but of the eternal hope of a better life to come. 

So moving was the sight that rescue workers and clean-up crews -- men and women of various faiths, religious traditions, and backgrounds -- left it untouched, cordoning it off and shining spotlights on it through the night as a reminder of the hallowed presence of the Almighty, even there in the valley of the shadow of death.

I remember visiting Ground Zero the first time over a year after the attacks.  And amidst the emotions of sorrow and grief that at times seemed overwhelming as I looked at the pictures and tributes left by the family members of victims, that steel cross remained as an inspirational reminder that there is a greater spirit that lives inside the human soul that is unassailable by any act of man, no matter how evil or devastating it is.

Yet what the murderous butchers of 9/11 could not bring down with exploding airliners and crumbling skyscrapers, a rabid group of atheists, bizarrely obsessed with destroying the foundation of the very rights they ceaselessly exploit for the sake of self-aggrandizement, are attempting to bring down with a lawsuit.

The organization American Atheists has filed a legal challenge in state court in New York to halt the permanent display of the World Trade Center cross at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

It's important to note the distinction that exists between the majority of atheists in the United States and the fanatical anti-God extremists that characterize this militant organization.  Most atheists express little if any outright hostility to organized religion, particularly Christianity.  Indeed they are thankful to live in a civilization founded upon the Western values derived from the Judeo-Christian worldview -- values like tolerance, brotherhood, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  They merely seek to exercise their right of conscience (something that they will acknowledge and admit is the product of the country's Christian foundation) to not believe in a Divine Authority.

But not American Atheists.  These are the folks who ignorantly theorize that it is their constitutional right not only to be a non-believer, but to never have to interact with, encounter, or be subjected to the beliefs of anyone else.  Therefore, they belligerently proselytize their unbelief, assailing Nativity scenes, the Ten Commandments, candy canes, Christmas carols, public prayers, and now steel beams that form the shape of a cross.

Complaining that "the WTC cross has become a Christian icon," the group's president, Dave Silverman, issued a press release stating that the "government enshrinement of the cross was an impermissible mingling of church and state," and thus violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment.  Hogwash.

Expounding on the true meaning of that clause in January of 1853, Mr. Badger issued the reported findings of congressional investigations into the Founders' intent in writing it.  The Senate committee found that the authors of the First Amendment "had no fear or jealously of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people; they did not intend to prohibit a just expression of religious devotion by the legislators of the nation, even in their public character as legislators."  Therefore, even if American Atheists could prove their accusation that enshrining the 9/11 cross was an intentional expression of religious devotion by lawmakers, it would not run afoul of the First Amendment. 

Interestingly, that congressional inquiry went on to state that the Founding Fathers "did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation, the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy."  And make no mistake, there are no better words to describe a lawsuit to obliterate the 9/11 cross than "revolting spectacle."

Maybe, in the end, that's the good that will come of this case.  Though equally irrational, when American Atheists sues a graduating senior for mentioning Jesus or attempts to disbar a judge for allowing a municipal Nativity scene display, it flies under the radar of the national conscience.  But seeking to dismantle the 9/11 cross is such an egregious overreach of anti-Christian hostility that it offends the entire country's sensibilities. 

Perhaps it will prove to be the wake-up call necessary for people with common sense, be they atheist or Christian, to rise up and finally say to the radical extremists determined to eradicate our nation's heritage, "Enough."

Peter is a public high school government teacher and radio talk show host in central Indiana.  Email, visit, or like him on Facebook.