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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
On American Atheists Lawsuit over World Trade Center 9/11 Cross
This is an excerpt from the upcoming article by National Legal Director Edwin Kagin regarding the WTC Cross Lawsuit.
[...] This cross is an admittedly religious symbol. Those who want it publically displayed in the proposed national shrine have stated that this cross demonstrates to Christians, and everyone else, that god did not abandon us on 9/11. How such a symbol might be viewed, or how it might affect non-believers, has been irrelevant to those who hold it to be a gift of a god: a god that still has us favorably in mind, despite his apparent inability, or unwillingness, to prevent the evil that happened that terrible day.
Those who would have this cross installed in our national memorial and museum want to give the impression to the world that the United States of America is a Christian nation. And they want our government to ratify that unconstitutional conclusion by bringing this Trojan Horse of Christianity inside the gates of the constitutional wall that separates religion from government.
Be clear on this please. We are not a Christian nation and we have never been a Christian nation. The Treaty with Tripoli, of 1797, signed by all of the U.S. senators, says, in black letter, “...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” We are a secular nation that has a lot of Christians in it. Christians have the right to be acknowledged and to be heard. So do atheists. The First Amendment says that no law shall be made that relates in any way to the establishment of religion. Using public funds to put onto public land a cruciform structure is government conduct amounting to behavior respecting “the establishment of religion.” What part of “no” don’t they understand?
American Atheists has filed a lawsuit in the state, not federal, court in New York. This was a surprise move to many who think such things always go to Federal court. However, this might not, in these times, be the best strategy. We allege a violation of both federal and New York law in that public funds will be used to establish the Christian religion on public land, by permitting this cross to be placed in the Museum designed by our government to represent all of those who died in what has been come to be known as the 9/11 attack.
Those who died in the attacks did not “sacrifice” themselves, as this implies some act of choice. They were murdered by religious fanatics. Their deaths were not heroic. They were not tragic. They were pathos. The deaths of those who died in rescue attempt were both tragic and heroic. Their sacrifices honor us all.
The idea for this case, and the beginnings of our lawsuit, were conceived and started by the President of American Atheists, Dave Silverman, and the undersigned, while we were serving together this summer at Camp Quest Michigan. Through the miracle of cell phone, we found, and contacted, Danielle Mathey, Esq., an outstanding member of the New York bar, who agreed to serve as local counsel. The Complaint can be read here (PDF).
The outcry from the usual suspects was immediate and noisy. What was not expected was the enormous amount of flak we have received from writers and thinkers who normally would be supportive. But not here. To some, this lawsuit was ill conceived and will be an embarrassing loss to all atheists.
It is respectfully requested of those who would further criticize us that they do themselves and history the favor of actually reading the lawsuit before opining thereon. Ignorance is regrettable, but it can result in a lot of interesting arguments from people who are frequently wrong but never uncertain. If debate is to be had, let it at least be over what the facts are, not over what someone with a blog, and a ready opinion on everything, has misread or misconceived about this case.
National Legal Director
American Atheists, Inc.