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Atheist Sue to have World Trade Center Cross, Miracle Cross, Removed From 9/11 Memorial Museum

Mar 13, 2014 11:34 AM EDT
World Trade Center Cross
(Photo : Getty Images)

An atheist group presented arguments on Thursday before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan to keep the World Trade Center Cross from being displayed at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The attorney for the 9/11 museum, Mark Alcott, called the steel beam cross an artifact, while, Edwin Kagan, attorney for the American Athiest,  made an argument that the 17-foot-tall crossed beams were a religious symbol,  and said it should not be welcome at the publicly-owned Museum, to adhere with the seperation of chuch and state.  

The Miracle Cross, or Ground Zero Cross as it is also known, was located by construction worker Frank Silecchia,  It became an iconic rallying point for many of those people who were first on the scene after the terrible tragedy in 2001.  

"I was already working 12 hours. I was quite weary and the cross comforted me," Silecchia said to the "Today" Show. "I never stood here before any media and said it's about religion. But I say it's about faith - the faith that was crushed on 9/11."

According to Wikipedia, "When the Twin Towers collapsed, it sent debris down on to 6 World Trade Center, and gutted the interior of World Trade Center 6. In the midst of the WTC 6 debris was this intact cross beam, which its discoverer believes came from the North Tower."

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Judge Reena Raggi said there are countless other religious artifacts on display at many museums and she was concerned the atheist wanted to censor history by having the cross removed.

Since the tragedy, the symbolic cross has inspired art, from paintings to movies like the 2006 documentary film titled The Cross and The Towers, which tells the story of the 9/11 World Trade Center Cross. There have been numerous replicas created, notably the one installed at the gravesite of Father Mychal Judge, a New York City Fire Department chaplain who was killed in the collapse of WTC 1 on September 11.

In a ruling last year,  U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts concluded that the 17-foot-high cross, which became a spiritual symbol for workers at ground zero, does not amount to an endorsement of Christianity."

In July, the cross was moved  to its new home at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, located at ground zero in Lower Manhattan. A Franciscan priest who ministered to workers clearing the area after the attacks, Father Brian Jordan, led a ceremonial blessing of the cross.

"It is an artifact that should be included in the museum because it's a history museum. This is a part of the memory of 9/11, " Fr. Jordan said.

Eric Baxter with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty agrees.  

"Museums don't censor history, they don't make up history. They tell history as it happened and the cross is part of the history and the plaque is not," he said, referring to a plaque that the Atheist group has requested, if their plans to have the cross removed are not granted  by the court.  

They want the plaque to read, "Atheist died here, too."

In past court action to have the cross removed, the atheist group has referred to the cross as nothing more than an "ugly piece of wreckage" that "does not represent anything ... but horror and death."

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