[UPDATE BELOW] You'll recall rolling your eyes at news that a group of atheists are suing to get the so-called 9/11 Memorial Cross removed from the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site. The cross, which is formed by intersecting steel beams found in the Ground Zero rubble, is seen by many as a symbol of perseverance and faith, but it's causing the atheists "dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish." And if U.S. Representative Michael Grimm gets his way, their migraines are only going to intensify.
Grimm, a Republican from Staten Island, will introduce legislation this week that would establish the cross as a national monument. "This cross was a symbol of hope and freedom at a time when New Yorkers were coping with loss and destruction in the aftermath of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil," Grimm said in a statement. “I find it reprehensible that this group would disgrace the beliefs of millions of people in an effort to garner a little media attention for their cause. By establishing the 9/11 Memorial Cross as a national monument, we ensure this symbol of freedom continues to stand for all those we lost and those whose faith remains to this day."
The press release also reveals that "along with the cross, the exhibit will include a Star of David cut from WTC steel and a Bible fused to a piece of steel that was found during recovery efforts. The cross, however, was the only symbol singled out by the American Atheists." (We've contacted multiple members of the American Atheists for comment, and will update when we hear back, but at press time it appears they don't believe in Gothamist.) (See below!)
When the lawsuit was filed, the group noted that they were open to this compromise: including something atheist at the memorial. The group's president suggested, "Perhaps an atom, because we’re all made out of atoms." And in an effort to help sort this out, Jon Stewart told the atheists, "Unless I'm wrong here, atoms are already well-represented at Ground Zero. There are billions of them there. So I guess it all comes down to a size issue. You're mad that the atoms are microscopic and the cross is big. Perhaps, as a compromise, we could build you an atomic symbol statue. But it has to be made out of billions of crosses."
Update: David Silverman, the President of American Atheists, has issued this statement:
And here we have it: the first attempt to make the Christian cross a national symbol, chipping away at the wall of separation of church and state with a jackhammer. It is literally the opposite of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".
This bill is another move by the Religious Right to Christianize 9/11. 9/11 was an American event, not a Christian event, and all religious positions were effected. Our position remains one of equality - Hundreds of atheists died on 9/11, and we demand representation equal to the Christian "shrine" (as Mr. Grimm correctly calls it).
American Atheists asks all citizens of all religious positions to think about this proposal shows how Christian lawmakers use 9/11 for their political advantage. This bill is clearly illegal and will yield more lawsuits and more division and polarization over an event which should unify all Americans.