Sometimes it’s best to leave Christianity out of it
Published: Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 15:09
The omnipresent issue of church and state separation has geared up for round oh-who-the-hell-even-knows-now, with atheists in one corner and the ground zero memorial in the other.
American Atheists has filed a lawsuit claiming that the display of a cross-shaped beam uncovered from the twin towers' debris is not a fair representation of all religions. Its argument is an "all or nothing" one: either represent all religions equally or represent none at all. AA is offering to fund the other representations and has put forth an alternate icon: a firefighter carrying an injured person out.
Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at FGCU, stated that the display of a religious symbol on public property could be in violation of separation of church and state, depending on intent. If it's there for educational purposes, fine. But if it exists for religious purposes, then the AA may have a case on its hands. Of course, on private property, it's a moot point—someone can display what he or she wishes on private property.
The memorial president, Joe Daniels, has said that the cross is merely a historical artifact that will tell the story of 9/11 and that the cross has become a "symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at ground zero, as well as for people around the world."
Regarding Daniels' first point, as a friend pointed out, any piece of rubble pulled from the wreckage serves a historic purpose — why give preferential treatment to the perceived cross?
It's virtually guaranteed that if an Islamic star and crescent had been discovered in the wreckage (which is highly improbable, similar to how this "cross" is actually just a remnant of one of the t-beams used to construct the tower) and was going to be displayed, America would be having a stroke. The entire country would burst into angry flames and Rick Perry might actually act on those secession jokes he made a few years ago. Calm down, that last part was a jest.
As for the comfort the cross provides, there is no reason for the display to be exclusionary. Why must Christianity have a monopoly on comfort? The "firefighter carrying a person out" icon is much more encompassing to the melting pot that is America, because after all, Christians weren't the only people to die in these attacks.
This isn't a matter of oppressing Christian symbols, it's a matter of being fair to all victims of the attack, especially when AA wants to give its money to make sure that happens.
There's no "affront on Christian values" going on here. Believe it or not, there are people who do not find the cross comforting or even find it discomforting.
But a universal, human icon in a brave firefighter risking his life to save another? Everyone can get behind that. Or don't even replace the cross. Just move it to an area where it doesn't announce its presence to the world and put the firefighter where the cross currently is. As Bergerson said, groups that challenge the Christian values that are part of our political culture are often met with animosity. Likewise, this article will surely draw a similar amount of ire.
Please note that isn't an issue of being "offended" about a certain religion's icon, because being offended is for the dogs. This is about recognizing that yes, despite what the majority says, America does have established code for separation of church and state that needs to be enforced from time to time.