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Court rules in favor of maintaining the World Trade Center Cross at the 9/11 museum

The American Atheists, Inc. had tried, for the second time, to challenge the cross as it does not include mention of the atheists that were also impacted by the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center

A controversial debate has just received a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. The decision in the case of American Atheists, Inc. et al v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey et al. resulted in a ruling against the atheist organization.

American Atheists, Inc. claims that the inclusion of the World Trade Center Cross in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The group says that establishing the symbol at the site is unconstitutional, citing that it does not acknowledge that atheists were also affected by 9/11. 

The Second Circuit Court upheld a ruling by a trial court and supported Wiley Rein amicus curiae as well as the opinion of Father Brian Jordan, who blessed the cross and said mass at Ground Zero following the attacks on the World Trade Center.


Further reading: 

An answer to your prayers: R visas for religious workers

The EEOC offers guidance on religious garb and grooming in the workplace

Muslim job applicants apparently experience more discrimination if they are open about their religious identification


Wiley Rein attorney Matthew Dowd is quoted in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

“The Second Circuit’s unanimous decision is a resounding victory for the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which was established to recount the complete and accurate history of 9/11 and the events at Ground Zero. As the Second Circuit recognized, the Ground Zero Cross was an integral part of that history, and the court rejected the American Atheists’ attempt to remove the Cross from that history.” 

The cross is made of the remains of prefabricated iron cross beams, and was initially discovered by an ironworker on September 13, 2001, two days after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. 

Much of the debate surrounds Father Brian Jordan’s public expression of religion, and the constitutional right to do so. He stated: “Hopefully, the decision will put an end to this case and allow the victims’ families and the public in general to appreciate and understand the history and significance of 9/11 as they visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. The decision also confirms that ministers of faith should not be subject to suit simply for expressing their religion in public.”

The judges made mention of not particularly ruling against a group of atheists, but instead making sure that all historical artifacts — religion-based or secular — remained as part of the museum’s display to encapsulate all aspects of the event.


Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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