With religious symbols being installed at the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum, conflict was bound to arise. [For more on this story, you can Google it or check out this article]. The Mayor of NYC pointed out that religion comforted many during 9/11, and his opposition believes it's inappropriate mingling of church and state. I'm not looking to debate religion and politics, but this is a conflict with valid points and passionate people on each side. Either way, someone will not be happy with the result. And yet why should this be? Shouldn't remembering that day be bigger than a dispute about symbols?


In the article, I think it's interesting how the Mayor kind of hides behind history to justify including religious symbols. It's not like EVERYONE turned to religion on that day, so it' seems inaccurate to try to use this as justification. The symbols represent what a portion of society did. And memorials/museums do more han just re-count history. They are there to move people, provoke thoughts, reflection, etc. Further, I think he misses the point of why the atheists have sued. It's not about whether it was "right" to turn to religion. The overarching concern for them seems to be more about the co-mingling of church and state. Maybe the actual symbol doesn't bother them, but this co-mingling does bother them. And maybe it should bother more of us - is it a dangerous precedent?


And once again, the conflict ended up (1) in the courts and (2) in the media. How does this really help the conflict at this moment? Is this issue too big (i.e. too many parties) for an ADR approach?

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Comment by John C. Turley on August 4, 2011 at 11:41am

My cousin was one of the gallant firefighters who lost his life on that day of infamy.  As a family, we pray for him and all who lost their lives at the WTC.  Religion and family were our principal sources of solace.  As people of faith, we place our trust in God, our loved ones and other people.  We pray for those who would do us harm even if it is justified in the name of their religion.  This last statement does not prohibit us from expressing our anger and a human desire for revenge.   There is very little that we can do except pray and remember this tragedy and do our best to understand why this happened and how to prevent a 9/11 type event from ever occurring again.  I table the military response from this post.  Further, I do not agree with the position of the atheists;however, their right to protest is guaranteed under the constitution.  The courts are expected to rule in favor of allowing the cross to remain in the museum.  According to the due process of law, both arguments vis-a-vis the placement of the beams will be heard.   One could justify the inclusion of the steel beams in the museum as a remarkable phenomenon akin to Ripley's "believe it or not."  I do believe that many people who survived the attack turned to God and prayer.  I say this because I spoke with several of them, and my communication lines to NYC and fellow NYers throughout the world are active.   New York City is one that acknowledges the power and presence of all religions and special interest groups.  Separation of church and state is upheld despite the fact that the Archbishop of NYC, as well as important and influential rabbis and other religious leaders all have the Mayor's ear.  Religion in NYC cannot be avoided as a political influence.

I cannot speak for other people who lost their loved ones.  I believe that there are hollowed grounds throughout the world that memorialize people and historic events regardless of the individual or collective beliefs.  Auschwitz comes to mind.  At this site, it was inappropriate to display a Catholic cross.  This situation had nothing to do with atheism but was one of respect between religions in Poland.  As a Catholic, I was indirectly engaged in this dispute because it involved the main symbol of my religion and the decisions of the Vatican that ultimately influenced the religious hierarchy of Poland to remove it.  The beloved symbol of our faith was offensive to others who had suffered and died here.   Some argue that Pope Pius XII failed to act and help his fellow man by the very influence of this symbol.

Mayor Bloomberg is correct when he refers to the symbols of other religions on display in the museum.  He is taking a firm stand by respecting the symbols of those who died on 9/11 and honoring their survivors.  This situation is not an exclusive dispute between Christians and atheists concerning the separation of church and state, but the appropriateness of museum artifacts that characterize a moment in our culture and our history. The symbols represent the diverse culture and beliefs of the people of New York.   When the Brooklyn Museum displayed a painting of the Virgin Mary with animal dung, Mayor Giuliani and the Catholic Church protested, but the picture remained. We honor and remember the dead according to our beliefs.  New York is home to many Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists and too many religions and special interest groups to list.  The city tries its best to represent the interests of all of its people.

Comment by John C. Turley on August 6, 2011 at 11:47am


Please see this article in today's New York Times  U.S. | August 06, 2011
Texas Rally Renews Debate Over the Boundaries of Perry's Faith
Critics say that Rick Perry's Christian-themed prayer service on Saturday will be the latest instance in which the Texas governor is muddying the lines between church and state.


Comment by Nicole Bohe on August 7, 2011 at 9:00pm

Thank you for your thoughts, and I'm sorry for your loss.


Religion is obviously a cornerstone for many. When it comes to government, there is supposedly this separation, but as you mentioned (and the NYT article) it doesn't always happen. I do think it is more concerning, however, when the line becomes too blurred. But at what point does that happen? And what exactly am I so concerned about? 


Fascinating story. I just hope it all turns out where people can have the respectful memorial the site deserves.


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