I got this one from The New American, a website created by the John Birch Society … meaning that you know it’s going to be about as fair and balanced as Sean Hannity’s prime time segment and full of the kind of proper Christian morals that keep homosexuals in the closet and atheists out of public office. The story this time comes to you from Princeton, New Jersey, where a local fire department intends to erect a 9/11 monument on city property to honor those who died that day – including nine from Princeton itself.
Only there’s one problem: the monument (above), such as it is, is a twisted support beam from the World Trade Center itself. In the middle of the beam’s web there is a very noticeable Christian cross cut out that had been put on the stretchers of dead emergency workers to honor their sacrifice. (No word on whether they were all Christian, but I guess they all got one that day regardless.) It’s that cutout that’s now causing yet another inevitable legal battle between American Atheists and the local government.
In a letter to Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, American Atheist attorney Bruce Afran wrote: “While the intention to commemorate those who died at the World Trade Center is admirable and appropriate for a community, the use of such a singular religious image will be grossly offensive and alienating to many people.” Afran said that although “the image of the cross on the girder is the space remaining after a cross was carved from the girder, it nonetheless presents the indisputable image of a cross on a memorial for those who died in the attacks of 9/11 — a religious image in remembrance of the dead. It goes without saying that the image of the cross is a common religious feature on the graves of the deceased who adhered in life to a Christian faith.”
I don’t find this “grossly offensive” in itself. I, personally, understand that Princeton got whatever they were given (they claim they didn’t know about the cross until they got it) … but the fact remains that it will cause serious issues of constitutionality when put on public grounds. If this is intended to be a public monument to honor all of the lives lost on 9/11, then something needs to be done to take this into consideration. For example, they could put a plaque that tells the story of why the cross was cut out of this particular piece, and then emphasize the fact that people of many faiths – as well as people with none – were killed that day. Others, who openly support the monument, suggested just covering up the cross in an attempt to reach a compromise. I think I could probably live with either option, myself. Other people, not so much …
Some proponents of the memorial suggested simply covering the cross, but [Princeton's Deputy Fire Chief Roy] James protested that option. “If you hide it … you’re taking someone’s story away,” he said. “You’re taking someone’s life that may have been lost that day and your taking it for granted.”
And if you leave it while putting it up as a public monument for display on public ground, you’re trivializing the lives and disrespecting the memories of everyone who wasn’t Christian. Besides, how is covering the cross “taking someone’s story away”? Putting it there basically takes every non-Christian’s story away pretty effectively, don’t you think? Covering it up would not only honor every Christian, but also the Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and the rest of the people who died along with them.
James told Fox News that the issue is not one of religious faith, but of history and of honoring the memories of those who died, as well as those who worked in the recovery efforts afterwards. “We got a historic piece,” James said. “There’s so much behind that. If we do not show the cross, we are leaving out someone’s story. We are basically saying someone’s emotions that day didn’t matter.”
This is the reason why I think this thing belongs on either private ground or a museum. Yes, it’s a historical piece. The story behind the cross, along with everything else that happened that day, needs to be preserved as best as possible … and pretending it didn’t happen wouldn’t make any sense either. Given these circumstances, I think it’s a mistake to go forward with putting this particular piece of the tower on public property. People are going to be visiting this monument to honor and remember loved ones, regardless of their faith, and the last thing they need to see is a symbol that pays particular homage to one particular group of people as if they deserve special treatment.
Deputy Chief James told Fox News’ Todd Starnes that the memorial, which is presently being stored at one of Princeton’s fire stations, is all about “trying to remember those who died that day.” He added that “I’m not forcing people to go and visit the memorial. If people get offended by it, they don’t have to go.”
Funny, I didn’t think the monument itself was grossly offensive, but I feel that James’s response to the entire situation kind of is. Look, either cover the cross or write something that tells the story of why it’s there in the first place. There’s a way to work with this, but it gets significantly harder when there’s people like James who don’t even see the potential issue of constitutionality and feel the best way to deal with the situation is to tell people that “they don’t have to go”.
Oh well. Another day, another stupid battle that’s only going to make atheists look like bitter assholes. There’s no way to win.
EDIT: Surprisingly, there are only two comments associated with the article, but I feel I need to share this one by someone named “rprew”:
I am a Christian, yet I am not bothered by the cutouts of TWO atheist symbols shown on this piece of steel. If TWO cutouts of atheist symbols do not bother me as a Christian, then why does ONE cutout of a Christian symbol bother an atheist? Someone needs to get a life.
Reference: http://www.religioustolerance.org/atheist6.htm (about 2/;3 of the way down)
The particular “symbols” in question are the circular holes cut into the support beam. Clearly these are directly related to atheism (see the link above) because there is no possible reason relevant to the engineering or construction of the building itself that such holes would be necessary. It’s an atheist plot, I tells ya. I’m glad people like rprew are around to make sure the truth is told.