When the new National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum opens this May in New York City, it will display 1,000 artifacts related to the tragic event -- but a 17-foot cross-shaped beam found in the wreckage will not be one of them, if the group American Atheists have anything to say about it.
The cross was discovered by a construction worker at the World Trade Center site, who said it provided him with great "comfort." But a representative for the atheist group argues that the "Miracle Cross," as it is being called, doesn't belong anywhere within a museum that is being financed by taxpayers and that it violates the Constitutition's separation of church and state. The group claims it is fighting to include an object of its own to be put up in the museum -- a plaque that says "atheists died here, too."
Aside from their position that the cross offered several first responders a feeling of relief during an extremely difficult time and should be included for that reason alone, those who are fighting to keep the cross also say it's an important part of the 9/11 narrative and deserves artifact status since it was, literally, found at the site. In that way, they view it less as a religious symbol and more as an historical one.
I doubt most non-Christians would look at a cross and not see the religious symbolism behind it, but I don't feel that is the point here. As an Agnostic, I'm often turned off by overt displays of religion in places that are meant to be enjoyed and shared by people of all faiths. But we're talking about a museum here -- and we're talking about something that was actually discovered at the site of 9/11. I may not consider this cross a "miracle," but many people do -- and those people deserve to be represented. It doesn't scare me or make my beliefs any less valid when others are allowed to express theirs -- and that's the problem I have with the Atheists' position, in this case.
I understand the American Atheists' desire to include its own plaque in the museum -- to a degree. If they are allowed to do so, then every faith-based group should have the right to add its own dedication to those who share their faith and lost their lives on Sept. 11. But is that necessary? Isn't it a given that we are honoring everyone who was killed in the terrorist attacks -- whether they were devout Christians or a non-believers?
The cross-shaped beam was found in the wreckage. It may mean little to me, but it means something to a great number of people. In my opinion, that's enough of a reason to include it in the museum.
How do you feel about the inclusion of the cross at the 9/11 museum? Should it be kept out because it violates people's Constitutional rights?
Image via diaper/Flickr