Atheists Sue Over World Trade Center 9/11 Cross: Should Christian Symbol Be Removed?

A national atheist group has filed a lawsuit to block the inclusion of the famous '9/11 cross' from a memorial at the World Trade Center site.

The cross, a fused steel t-joint which served to gird the towers before they fell, was unearthed from the rubble following the attacks. Unusual for its proportions resembling the Christian cross, it quickly became a symbol of hope for men and women coping with the horror of the day.

It was moved to nearby St. Peter's church in 2006, where it bore a plaque which read: "The Cross at Ground Zero - Founded September 13, 2001; Blessed October 4, 2001; Temporarily Relocated October 15, 2006. Will return to WTC Museum, a sign of comfort for all."

The cross was moved back to the World Trade Center site on July 23, but according to the American Atheists, it should have stayed at St. Peter's.

"The WTC cross has become a Christian icon," the group's president, David Silverman, said in a press release. "It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion."

According to ABC News, Jane Everhart, one of the separate plaintiffs listed in the case, called the cross "an ugly piece of wreckage" that "does not represent anything ... but horror and death."

The group wants equal inclusion of other belief systems - including nonreligious groups - or outright removal of the cross. The 9/11 Memorial Foundation told ABC that other religious artifacts, including a Star of David and a Jewish prayer shawl, will be added the museum ahead of its scheduled opening on September 12, 2011.

This is hardly the first time an atheist's interest group has sued over a perceived religious injustice. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued President Bush, the then-governor of Wisconsin and other officials over a designated National Day of Prayer in 2008 (another group in Arizona did so again in March 2011) and the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason sued because it was being forced to pay for an anti-God bus ad campaign. Most recently, five Texans sued Gov. Rick Perry to prevent him from appearing in an August 6 prayer rally.

See a video report about the lawsuit -- and the cross that sparked the outrage -- here: