Generally speaking, happiness is NEVER a day for me on which I awaken to learn that I am on the same side of an issue as the purveyor of tele-evangelical fraud Pat Robertson. I am a confirmed agnostic and while I find the regular person's belief in some sort of amorphous higher power very difficult to comprehend, I find the coterie of charlatans such as Messr. Robertson and his fellow flock-fleecers Messrs. Falwell, Bakker, Roberts and Swaggart to be almost beyond contempt. An utterly reprehensible assemblage of human beings preying upon the good-natured beliefs of others. Whether P.T. Barnum would nod his head in appreciation or shake his head in disgust at the way in which they have raised the practice of sucker-making to an art form I know not.
That being said, I find myself squarely on the same side of the argument as Robertson's group, the American Center for Law and Justice (the "ACLJ"). The ACLJ is a law firm that principally defends the propriety of the placement of religious symbols in displays on public property (think creche on the lawn of the local courthouse). Earlier this week the ACLJ joined the fight against the American Atheists in the latter's lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation, which the Atheists filed in August, 2011. The stated aim of the suit is to prevent the Museum from including among its works the "cross" that was found at Ground Zero's wreckage after the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2011. The Foundation plans to include the 17-foot cross among more than 1,000 objects, including fire trucks, an ambulance and the 37-foot "Last Column," left standing on the site of the former World Trade Center.
I put the word "cross" in quotes in the preceding paragraph by deliberate design. The allegedly objectionable artifact is iconic because it is not - and was never - itself the result of deliberate design. It was formed by two steel crossbeams whose very existence was revealed to the world only because everything else around them was destroyed. With the building that housed them utterly demolished, their presence became a symbol to me not of God's presence in a place seemingly devoid of any such thing but rather of the unbowed, unbroken spirit of all Americans. Together, they offered a ray of hope on our darkest day.
We are less than one month away from the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I appreciate the fact that more than a decade removed from that day, its echo resonates with varying levels of intensity and clarity for many of us. As someone who is honored to participate this September as I have in the previous two Septembers in the Tunnel to Towers Run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and into Lower Manhattan, its echo resonates very strongly with me still.
In their lawsuit, the Atheists claim that the inclusion of the cross in the National 9/11 Museum, "amounts to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. It also asserts the presence of the cross would result in injury — emotional and even physical in the case of extreme anxiety — to atheists left feeling excluded from what should be a place of unity and healing." Permit me the indulgence of employing legalese here in reply to this claim: Bullshit. Complete, utter and reprehensible bullshit.
In his on-line column for the Ledger's web site on Tuesday, Mark Di Ionno (of whom I am a tremendous fan) said it far more eloquently:
"The Cross at Ground Zero" came down from Tower One, and stood above the rest on a higher hill of twisted steel and concrete slab. When fires subsided, and dust and ashes settled, it emerged as a beacon of hope — a sacred symbol of, at once, survival and remembrance....
....The U.S. Constitution says "Congress will make no religion." It doesn't say religion has no place in society. If there was ever a time faith was needed in this nation, the aftermath of 9/11 was the time. One more thing: religious freedom is the enlightened concept that separates America from its attackers. The cross was a symbol of that, too.
I began today finding myself in agreement with Pat Robertson. I end today, having read Di Ionno's words again, finding myself mouthing the word "Amen".
One hell of a tough day to be an agnostic.