Editorial: Do not allow a cross to defile Trade Center memorial

Grimm: Make ‘9-11 cross’ a national monument
AP / Mark Lennihan

Bay Ridge’s Republican Rep. Michael Grimm is fighting a principled battle to allow a religious icon — the so-called “9-11 cross” — to become the centerpiece of the World Trade Center memorial museum.

Trouble is, Grimm is arguing the wrong principles.

The freshman congressman is pitching legislation that would enshrine as a national monument a cross-shaped piece of rubble that was recovered from the wreckage of the Twin Towers.

The legislation is an attempt to subvert a lawsuit by a group of atheists that argues that installing such a cross in a government-funded museum on government property amounts to a government sponsorship of a religion, specifically Christianity.

“This is a country that was founded on a belief in God, period,” Grimm told us this week. “Anyone that wants to dispute that, I wouldn’t waste my time with them.”

Well, we don’t believe it is a “waste” of time to debate our government’s role in religious matters. Indeed, it gets to the very core of our democracy and our adherance to our nation’s highest values.

Our beef, of course, is not with the cross. Christians are — and should be — free to display their religious symbols without government intrusion. But the flip side of that First Amendment protection is that government cannot abuse its power by trumpting one religion over another — or even over the public’s right to not believe in any deity at all.

In the case of the “9-11” cross, there is no argument that the relic has given comfort to thousands of people. As such, Grimm has argued that in the context of the terror attack, these seemingly heaven-sent crossbeams are not a religious symbol, but a symbol of “hope and freedom” to everyone.

On this he is wrong. The relic is, in fact, a Christian cross. As such, it has no business being the centerpiece of a national memorial to the World Trade Center’s thousands of victims — Muslims, Jews, Buddhist, atheists and, yes, Christians among them.

Grimm’s bill is not without irony, of course. The World Trade Center was destroyed by Islamic terrorists in the name of their God. With his bill, Grimm would debase the Trade Center memorial by using “our” God as a counter-argument to that fanaticism.