Princeton, NJ Must Not Let Atheists Derail 9-11 Memorial Cross


Jay Sekulow

August 29, 2013

3 min read




Once again, atheists are attempting to push their flawed constitutional view of "separation of church and state" by opposing any symbol that reflects our history and heritage.

This time the target is a planned 9-11 memorial in Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton Deputy Fire Chief Roy James got the idea a couple of years ago and was able to acquire from the Port Authority part of an iron beam from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

James wants to include that beam as part of the 9-11 memorial. A cross has been cut out of one side of the beam. That has triggered a legal threat from the group, American Atheists, which calls the proposed memorial “grossly offensive.”

The atheists also argue the cross symbol would send a terrible message to non-Christians, with the city giving the “appearance that all of the people who suffered and died on 9-11 and their families are being memorialized by a Christian symbol.”


First, the Deputy Fire Chief who is proposing this memorial is Jewish. Roy James told FOX News: “I’m a Jew. Ironically, I’m fighting to have this cross there because I believe that someone’s story is behind that. That story needs to be told. It has nothing to do with religious faith. It has something to do with telling history.”

Secondly, the arguments by the atheists are deeply flawed.

It's important to note that this group, American Atheists, filed suit trying to keep World Trade Center steel beams in the shape of a cross out of a September 11th museum. A federal court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that “no reasonable observer would view the artifact as endorsing Christianity.”

The proposed memorial in Princeton does not violate the Establishment Clause and we are urging the city to move forward with the memorial.

In a letter sent today to Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, we provide a detailed legal analysis as to why this memorial is not only appropriate but is constitutionally sound.

The letter cites numerous court decisions - including from the Supreme Court - backing such action. The letter also notes that the proposed memorial recognizes a historically significant event through the display of historically relevant items.

“The steel beam and cross are intended to honor the thousands of victims of the 9-11 attacks belonging to all faiths or none. The proposed Memorial would not compel anyone to take any religious action or indicate a preference for any religion. It does not, in any way, suggest that Princeton has endorsed Christianity or disrespected the memory of 9-11 victims who were not Christians,” the letter states.

We are encouraging Princeton to move forward with the proposed memorial design as a secular commemoration of the thousands of individuals who perished on September 11th.

We also told the Mayor that the ACLJ is available to discuss how we may be of assistance to Princeton and to aid in the defense of the proposed design in the event that a lawsuit is filed challenging it.

The fact is that the proposed memorial is a fitting tribute to all of the victims of the terrorist attacks. Once again, the opposition from atheists is predictable but, as usual, without merit.

The bogus arguments used to oppose this memorial should not deter Princeton from moving forward with this project.

Jay Sekulow