Atheists are threatening to sue over a planned Princeton, N.J., memorial to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on American soil because a metal beam that’s part of the display has a small cutout of a Christian cross.
The beam is the brainchild of a firefighter — who’s Jewish — who says the cross is actually a historic symbol, not religious, on Fox News. The beam was removed from the site of the World Trade Center debris; the cross shape was then cut into it. But American Atheists say the cutout is “grossly offensive,” and members vow to sue the municipality if the memorial goes forth as planned.
The group’s president, David Silverman, insists that the symbol is religious and that putting it on a public site would be a “clear violation of the separation of church and state.”
He also said the symbol sends a lousy message to those who aren’t Christians, Fox News reported. It would actually give the “appearance that all the people who suffered and died on 9-11 and their families are being memorialized by a Christian symbol. That is wrong. That is un-American.”
But the firefighter who’s pushing for the beam’s inclusion in the memorial, Princeton Deputy Chief Roy James, said the cross can be seen as separate from the Christian religion.
“I’m a Jew,” he said on Fox News. “Ironically, I’m fighting to have this cross there because I believe that someone’s story is behind that. That story needs to be told. It has nothing to do with religious faith. It has to do with telling history.”
Deputy Chief James conceived the idea of a memorial in his community years ago and subsequently received permission from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to use a beam that was salvaged from the World Trade Center debris.
“We had to sign a paper saying we would take care of it and respect it,” he said in the Fox News report.