American Atheists, Inc. v. Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J., No. 13-1668 (2d Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the display of "The Cross at Ground Zero," a column and cross-beam from one of the Twin Towers, at the National September 11 Museum as violating the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses, as well as parallel provisions of state law. The court concluded that displaying The Cross in the Museum does not violate the Establishment Clause because the stated purpose of displaying The Cross to tell the story of how some people used faith to cope with the tragedy is genuine, and an objective observer would understand the purpose of the display to be secular; an objective observer would not view the display as endorsing religion generally, or Christianity specifically, because it is part of an exhibit entitled "Finding Meaning at Ground Zero"; the exhibit includes various nonreligious as well as religious artifacts; and there is no evidence that the static display of this genuine historic artifact excessively entangles the government with religion. Because the Museum did not deny equal protection by displaying The Cross and refusing plaintiffs' request to fund an accompanying symbol commemorating atheists, the court affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment in favor of defendants.