There must be better ways for the American Atheists to spend their time ... and money.

On Wednesday the group filed a lawsuit claiming that a cross of two steel beams found in the rubble at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on this country, promotes Christianity over other religions on public property and diminishes the civil rights of non-Christians. With the lawsuit, they hope to block the cross-shaped steel beams, known as the "World Trade Center Cross," from being included in the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.

First, the cross was not something built by man to be a religious icon or symbol. Two days after the attacks, a worker discovered the 20-foot high steel T-joint, which resembles the Christian cross, in the debris of 6 World Trade Center.

In the days following the attacks, the cross became a symbol of hope for many who worked clearing the debris at the hallowed site. It was later used in a memorial ceremony with the New York City Fire Department and given a "ceremonial blessing" by the Rev. Brian Jordan.

The American Atheists say the cross violates the separation of church and state if it's included in the national memorial museum, charging that other philosophies should be represented as well. They're requesting to display their own memorial next to the steel cross, possibly in the form of an atom or an American flag, which would represent the "500 non-religious Americans" who were "among the victims of the 9/11 attack."

"It just so happens that the WTC was made out of T-joints, and they found a T-joint " David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, said in a release. "They put it in the church, kept it in the church for years, prayed over it ... blessed it."

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, in opposing the atheist's lawsuit, calls it "another pathetic attempt to rewrite the Constitution and rewrite history by removing a symbol that has deep meaning and serves as a powerful remembrance to that fateful attack nearly 10 years ago."

For the families and friends of the 3,000 victims lost in the 9/11 attacks, the immediate suffering of that day was devastating enough. But over the last decade, the legal challenges over religious issues have reopened new emotional scars from that dark day in our history.

First, we had the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center and now American Atheists are attempting to block the cross. No one is forcing anybody to kneel or say a prayer in front of those cross-shaped steel beams.

It simply became a symbol of hope and comfort for thousands during a time of intense national distress and suffering.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]