March 7, 2014

"The reason we don't have to give equal time to the atheists is because we're depicting the history of 9/11."

"The atheists as a community have nothing to do with the history of 9/11. Our mission is to tell the history in a truthful way," said Mark Alcott arguing for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in a case argued before a 2d Circuit panel yesterday. The atheists who brought the lawsuit (and lost at the trial level) complain of the lack of representation of atheists.
Rescue workers found the "Ground Zero cross" in the rubble of the World Trade Center two days after the attacks. The cross-shaped beam was originally part of the World Trade Center's structure. Rescue workers viewed it as a symbol of hope in the nine-month recovery effort, and priests included it in religious services held at Ground Zero....


"Of course it was regarded as a religious object to these individuals" who participated in the rescue efforts, Alcott said. "That's part of history."...

He said there is a difference between neutrally displaying an artifact while explaining its historical significance and displaying it in a religious way that invites people to pray before it.
The cross is quite large — 17 feet tall — so that gives some basis for an argument that the government is conveying the message that Christianity is the dominant religion. But from the perspective of a reasonable person who understands the context — which is what the Establishment Clause doctrine requires — that argument is weak. The cross is there as an extremely important historical artifact, and not as an endorsement of religion.

I blogged about this case in July 28, 2011 when it was filed, here. I see it had the lawsuits I hope will fail tag that I've already put on this post. And, rereading what I said then, I fully agree with myself:
I think the historic significance of the cross justifies its inclusion in the museum. Human beings cannot construct equivalent monuments for other religions, even if it were, in fact, legally required. [The American Atheists'] argument assumes that a historical museum is a free-speech forum that must be open to the speech of all groups, but that's not what a museum is.

Sometimes organizations file lawsuits not because they think they will win but to gain publicity for their cause. This is a case, however, of an organization drawing bad publicity, though, isn't it? I suppose this group seeks favor among a fairly small percentage of the population. If that is the goal, outraging the majority could feel like a good thing.

63 comments:

Edmund said...

Museums in the US are filled with Roman Catholic inspired artworks. Some have religious artifacts from Africa, Asia and the Americas.

As our host says, context is everything. I don't go to a museum to worship and although my church has some beautiful art works in it, I don't go there for art appreciation.

Phil 3:14 said...

Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

furious_a said...

I fully agree with myself.

I had to giggle, just a little bit.

Carry on!

rhhardin said...

Copper cross raising on the way to the store today.

Unattended. Perhaps it was a replacement cross.

Carl Pham said...

Atheists make life difficult for agnostics. We should drive them into the sea.

Robert Cook said...

"The atheists as a community have nothing to do with the history of 9/11."

And the Christians do?

Hagar said...

Doesn't atheist mean no god, no faith?
Why should we be forced to represent nothing?

traditionalguy said...

Muslim doctrine spends most of its time despising Christianity rather than taking cheap shots at Jews. So, 9/11 actually was the ongoing war on Christianity by Muslims aimed at NYC and Washington.

Neither that fact nor this Cross is not going to fit easily back into a convenient Offended Atheist's memory hole.

MrCharlie2 said...
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MrCharlie2 said...

Westboro Baptists make life difficult for Christians.

Cat ladies make life difficult for everyone.

Life is difficult, thank dog.

JRoberts said...

I'm waiting for the day when somebody sees an image of Christ in/on a tortilla (or grilled cheese sandwich, etc.) and an atheist group sues for equal representation.

Most of these atheist groups are just that silly.

Gahrie said...

Why do so many atheists have to be such dicks and continue to try and fuck things up for everyone, just because (they think) they can.

Are they trying to get revenge for the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses?
Just say no and close the door.

It is not like the cross is there because it was created by some artist to represent something. The Cross is in the museum because it was a part of the rubble, and a part made famous by the coverage of the event. Yes some people give it a deeper significance...but how can that possibly hurt atheists?

Michael K said...

Carl Pham said...

"Atheists make life difficult for agnostics. We should drive them into the sea."

Not a bad idea. That religion is so annoying in its constant efforts to proselytize.

EMD said...

As the adage goes "sometimes you have to choose your battles."

SteveR said...

Second Circuit

RecChief said...

I'm of two minds on the subject:

1. Seems like they are just using the same tactics as the militant atheists usually when they are attacking christianity. It's curious that they don't go after Crescents with the same zeal. Maybe it's the beheadings.

2. Surely there were some atheists killed in the 9/11 attacks.

But I don't think that displaying the steel I-beam "cross" is the imposition of one religion to the exclusion of others on anyone.

Hagar said...

Would not the appropriate display for atheism be a blank slate?

Mountain Maven said...

If I believed in nothing I sure wouldn't go to court to fight about it.

Revenant said...

I think having religious monuments at the site of a terrorist attack motivated BY religion is a bit tasteless, but I can't see bothering to sue over it. It just isn't that important.

Fen said...

In short - the Christians of this country found what they believe is a religous icon relating to the 9-11 loss.

And the Perpetually Indignant "Atheists" want to take that away from them.

Ann Althouse said...

"Second Circuit"

Thanks. I knew it was the Second Circuit… weird that I wrote 9th.

Fixed.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the day when somebody sees an image of Christ in/on a tortilla (or grilled cheese sandwich, etc.) and an atheist group sues for equal representation.

Every grilled cheese sandwich without a picture of Jesus is a representation of atheism.

Fen said...

And I put "atheists" in scare quotes because they are really Socialists who hate hate hate religion.

Revenant said...

Seems like they are just using the same tactics as the militant atheists usually when they are attacking christianity. It's curious that they don't go after Crescents with the same zeal. Maybe it's the beheadings.

Well, when Muslims try something like this, the *Christians* go after them for it. Ground Zero Mosque, anyone?

There were atheists who criticized that, too, but who can hear them over the din issuing from the Sarah Palins and Bill O'Reillys of the world?

Kieth Nissen said...

It's not just art. A large proportion of the serious music composed before the 19th century was dedicated to or inspired by religion. If you listen to Bach you are listening to Christian art.

SGT Ted said...

Why should the militant atheist POV be privileged over anybody else's POV?

This is atheists policing other peoples speech. AS an agnostic, I find their position and attitude to be anti-Liberty and anti-free speech and thus, unconstitutional and bigoted.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann,

"The cross is there as an extremely important historical artifact, and not as an endorsement of religion."

Oh please. There's nothing "historic" or significant about them. Two pieces of metal, found anywhere, are just two pieces of metal without religion. You're playing footsies with it.

"I think the historic significance of the cross justifies its inclusion in the museum."

What's "the historic significance"? Some believers saw something that - as usual - made them go goofy. That happens every single day in this country, so it's neither historic or significant.

"This is a case, however, of an organization drawing bad publicity, though, isn't it?"

Atheists "draw" bad publicity? That whole "you're going to Hell" cartoon mindset didn't help a little there?

"I suppose this group seeks favor among a fairly small percentage of the population. If that is the goal, outraging the majority could feel like a good thing."

Or there's a fairly small percentage of the population trapped in an insane nightmare, where a real life was supposed to be, completely over-run by zombies hungry for brains,...

Kieth Nissen said...

It's not just art. A large proportion of the serious music composed before the 19th century was dedicated to or inspired by religion. If you listen to Bach you are listening to Christian art.

gspencer said...

If they REALLY told the religious aspect of 9/11 we'd all learn a lot about Islam. The 19 and all those who assisted them were not perverting Islam in the least; they were following black-and-white Islamic tenets.

RecChief said...

Revanant said:
Well, when Muslims try something like this, the *Christians* go after them for it. Ground Zero Mosque, anyone?

Yeah, 'cause protesting a mosque insensitively sited is the same as killing people for believing in Christ as the Savior instead of Islam. After reading several of your posts I can only conclude that you sir, are an imbecile. Not jsut act like one, but you are the definition. I'd rather read one of Crack's race rants than the drivel you spew.

Big Mike said...

They aren't atheists! Please! An atheist doesn't much care about symbols like broken girders that resemble a Christian cross any more than we care about an elephant's head mounted on an otherwise human body. The group is anti-Christian. You won't catch them fussing about symbols from other religions.

They give real atheists like me a bad name.

Michael K said...

"Well, when Muslims try something like this, the *Christians* go after them for it. Ground Zero Mosque, anyone?"

How many beheadings was it again ?

Surely you are up to date on Christian beheadings. I mean those in which the Christians were the beheaders. Most of us are aware of the other kind.

Revenant said...

Yeah, 'cause protesting a mosque insensitively sited is the same as killing people for believing in Christ as the Savior instead of Islam. After reading several of your posts I can only conclude that you sir, are an imbecile

Judging from the first sentence, I question your claim that you actually read my posts. :)

n.n said...

America is a Christian nation founded by Christians. The First Amendment does not seek to normalize any other faith or religion. It is intended to record tolerance, not normalization of other belief systems, including atheism. The Atheists, unfortunately, are notoriously intolerant, as their simplistic philosophy proclaims, and their actions have recorded.

MadPohl said...

Why should not a religious person have a memorial in this memorable location?
We don't wish to impose our religion on anyone. Why impose your non-religion on us?

Revenant said...

"Well, when Muslims try something like this, the *Christians* go after them for it. Ground Zero Mosque, anyone?"

How many beheadings was it again ?

I am comparing the atheists' response to the 9/11 cross memorial to Christians' response to the Ground Zero mosque. What, pray tell, do beheadings have to do with it?

Anonymous said...

A Christian Nation? It's a secular government with built in protections against the merging of church and state.

raf said...

Atheists are the most religious people you will meet; they see religious symbolism everywhere.

If they really believed the symbol is meaningless, they could ignore it, just like they ignore representations of Greek, Roman, or Norse gods.

Smilin' Jack said...


Sometimes organizations file lawsuits not because they think they will win but to gain publicity for their cause. This is a case, however, of an organization drawing bad publicity, though, isn't it? I suppose this group seeks favor among a fairly small percentage of the population. If that is the goal, outraging the majority could feel like a good thing.


I think a fairly large percentage of the population will feel it is a good thing that courts are spending their time on this nonsense rather than imprisoning people for smoking dope.

Henry said...
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Henry said...

Gahrie wrote: Why do so many atheists have to be such dicks...

That one's easy. Equal representation.

The Godfather said...

It's said that, There are no atheists in the foxholes, but we know that's not true. There were probably some atheists among the first responders who were headed up the stairs of the towers when they came down.

(Pause)

Excuse the delay. I cry whenever I think of those courageous people.

If atheists think that courageous atheists are not being given their due recognition, we should listen. If they are just objecting because Christians are getting some comfort out of some pieces of bent metal, well screw them.

RecChief said...

actually I did read it. My point was that Atheists and Progressives attack Christians using a perverted interpretation of the Establishment Clause, while they ignore and even celebrate Islam, ignoring the facts of the abuses such as beheadings, dismemberment, abuse to women, child abuse and all the rest.

While you are looking for some sort of moral equivalency, lets keep in mind what exactly is happening in the middle east. there is a war on Christianity. Read up on what has happened to Copts in Egypt since the "Arab Spring". Good luck, the media has chosen to treat that as a "local crime story". Not to mention what has happened and is happening in other middle eastern countries to Christians.

The Ground Zero Mosque site was chosen to stick a thumb in the eye of not just Christians that might visit the memorial. While this is only one anecdote, my agnostic brother in law said he was brought to tears by the picture of the I Beam "cross" following 9/11. And he is not the only non-religious person to tell me that. So take your smug smiley face emoticons and go hunt for moral equivalency somewhere else, cause it ain't here.

mccullough said...

If only someone had found a semi-charred copy of Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not A Christian" this lawsuit would have been averted.

Robert Cook said...

America is a Christian nation founded by Christians.

No, it is not a Christian nation. It is a nation in which the majority of citizens professing a religion are Christian.

Drago said...

Cookie: "No, it is not a Christian nation. It is a nation in which the majority of citizens professing a religion are Christian."

I always turn to marxists for guidance and insight as to what constitutes a Christian nation.

n.n said...
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n.n said...
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Freeman Hunt said...

They could add an atheist-themed memorial by digging a very deep hole where you can look into the abyss and contemplate the utter meaninglessness of life.

n.n said...
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n.n said...

Freeman Hunt:

Oblivion is one path engendered by atheism. However, the philosophy only has one principle or doctrine: rejection of theism. The atheist stares into the abyss and counts the ways to reject an article of faith, which may or may not smite them in a postmortem. Their doctrine has one other implication: human consciousness will never escape its primitive confinement.

n.n said...

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
...
When in the Course of human events, ... to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them


Perhaps the nation was founded under an atheist God or mortal god(s)... Bow down before the one you serve.

People misunderstand the meaning and significance of the First Amendment. There is no separation of religion and faith, and state. That is a false interpretation and doctrine promoted by America's competitors. There is only an exclusion to establish an official state church. Unfortunately, with the rise of a secular cult (i.e. faith-based without a moral foundation), even this fundamental protection offered by the Constitution has been violated. Both Nature and Nature's God have been rejected in favor of consolidating capital and control under a minority regime, which promises its subjects/servants a subsidized, libertine existence.

Drago:

That would be a bad idea. The followers of Marx, who are characteristically atheist, are responsible for the greatest destruction of life, and enslavement of people, in a shorter period than even under Islamic rule.

Also, there is the execrable faith-based article of spontaneous conception, which offers comfort to people while committing and supporting an unprecedented violation of human rights.

Unfortunately, there are many apostates who have caused and tolerated progressive corruption. The apostates are, of course, the worst of the two. Since atheism lacks a moral foundation, its individual practitioners cannot be judged by a coherent religion or moral philosophy.

Freeman Hunt said...

Or there could be a big cave where you stand in the middle, in the dark, while gigantic wind machines turn the place into a sort of howling void where you can scream out your moral pronouncements into the deafening white noise and blackness.

jimbino said...

I suppose if they'd found a urine-filled bottle with a crucifix in it, that would find a place in the museum, too?

Proliferation of crosses just goes on reminding us of the insults and oppression visited on our people by the religionists. The French had the right idea in 1793, and we need to start hobbling religions that daily interfere with many facets of our lives.

Gahrie said...

The French had the right idea in 1793, and we need to start hobbling religions that daily interfere with many facets of our lives.

Well...you are going to need to amend the Constitution first......

Tarrou said...

"And I put "atheists" in scare quotes because they are really Socialists who hate hate hate religion."

Look guy, I think endless atheistic outrage is as silly as the next sane human being, but humans are tribal, and every tribe has its nutters. If you're going to say all atheists are Socialists (and why? there's no obvious connection there), then you must accept that all christians are members of Westboro Baptist Church. If you're going to cherry pick examples and tar a whole group of very disparate people, then accept it applies to you as well.

Atheist. Not socialist. And go ahead, make a comment about foxholes.

And while religion is a delusion, everything in a human's life is a delusion. There's no reason to single out that one for particular scorn unless it's causing some harm.

Rusty said...

Fen said...
"And I put "atheists" in scare quotes because they are really Socialists who hate hate hate religion."

You'd think, being atheists, they'd be indifferent to it. Religion that is. Not socialism.
To hate you must still have passion about something.
Maybe they're just fervent nihilists.

Rusty said...

Fen said...
"And I put "atheists" in scare quotes because they are really Socialists who hate hate hate religion."

You'd think, being atheists, they'd be indifferent to it. Religion that is. Not socialism.
To hate you must still have passion about something.
Maybe they're just fervent nihilists.

Robert Cook said...

"Cookie: 'No, it is not a Christian nation. It is a nation in which the majority of citizens professing a religion are Christian.'

"I always turn to marxists for guidance and insight as to what constitutes a Christian nation."


Drago, if you don't understand the distinction between "a Christian nation" and "a nation in which the majority of citizens professing a religion are Christian," there's no hope explaining it to you.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Atheists got the name Ground Zero and The Pile.

The Crack Emcee said...

Freeman Hunt said...
"They could add an atheist-themed memorial by digging a very deep hole where you can look into the abyss and contemplate the utter meaninglessness of life."


Whoa, whoa, whoa - you've got it backwards:

Life only had no meaning after religious types decided simple existence isn't enough,....

Strip away the lies, deceptions, claims to magic, omnipotent beings, and endorsements of slavery and whatnot, and life actually looks pretty damned good,...

Dr Weevil said...

Since two people have mentioned Westboro Baptist Church on this thread as if he were a Christian, it's worth mentioning that his religion does not seem to be Christian at all. Here's a comment I've left at Volokh and Patterico before when the subject came up - paragraphs in double quotations (" ") are me writing in 2006, single quotations (' ') Tushnet in 2005:

"Last August [= August 2005], Eve Tushnet quoted someone's argument that Phelps is not a Christian at all. Here's what she quotes:

'...In fact, it appears that Westboro has created not just an incredibly vulgar and non-Christlike approach to homosexuality, but that it's working on a new religion altogether, complete with new scriptures.

'Members of WBC generally avoid the name "Christian" when referring to themselves, preferring the mysterious term "Tachmonite." This apparently refers to a servant of King David's, but I'm not sure of the derivation or the intention.

'The Tachmonites believe Phelps is "the last prophet," with the power to determine who will be damned and who will be saved. They themselves, as followers of Phelps, also have the power to condemn souls to hell. Most people are destined for hell, but "Good Samaritans" who help the Tachmonites (for example, police officers who prevent counter-protesters from assaulting them) may be offered an indeterminate "reward" for their good conduct. Apparently "sola fide" is not part of the Tachmonites' creed.

'The new scriptures consist of the group's own writings, which are divided into two categories: "delectable epics" and "letters to heretics."

'The "delectable epics" (the term is the group's) are based loosely on Acts in the New Testament. The epics detail the Tachmonites' various protests against gays, President Bush, Elton John concerts, and the military and portray the Tachmonites alternately as invincible "super heroes" and defenseless victims of brutal rage. Some of the epics are in prose, and some in poetry.'

I haven't checked Tushnet's source, but have always found her trustworthy. I've also read in several places that Phelps is a registered Democrat, and has even run for office as such, contrary to the impression one would get from most people who mention him."

In short, not only is there no need to "accept that all christians are members of Westboro Baptist Church", there is no need to accept that any are.

hombre said...

Smilin' Jack: "I think a fairly large percentage of the population will feel it is a good thing that courts are spending their time on this nonsense rather than imprisoning people for smoking dope."

Imprisoning people for smoking dope? Bullshit! Although if you are talking about "feeling," there may be people who "feel" that's happening. If you are talking about "thinking," not so many.