A previous U.S. Supreme Court decision on public prayer may thwart atheists' efforts to remove the famous steel-beam cross from the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
American Atheists, Inc. filed suit to keep the so-called Ground Zero Cross from being included in the museum, which opened in May.
The 17-foot-tall steel beam was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center towers after the 9-11 attacks, and it was erected at the scene and became a revered attraction.
But American Atheists, in its court filings, suggested that even the thought of it made them nervous and gave them an upset stomach.
Eric Baxter, an attorney with The Becket Fund, tells OneNewsNow that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals is asking the atheist organization to explain why its members should be able to sue in the first place.
"What injury could they really claim to have had?" asks Baxter. "All they have seen is - in the newspaper, actually - that the cross is going to be displayed in the museum. And the fact that they get indigestion over that is really not reason to invoke the power of the court to shut down the museum's display."
In a story about the lawsuit, news website Examiner.com quoted from the court documents: “Named plaintiffs have suffered … dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish from the knowledge that they are made to feel officially excluded from the ranks of citizens who were directly injured by the 9/11 attack."
The court ordered American Atheists to submit new briefs by July 14 to explain how the group has suffered a direct injury that justifies the lawsuit, Becket Fund stated in a press release.
Baxter points to a recent U.S. Supreme Court case,Town of Greece v. Galloway, about public prayer before government meetings. Plaintiffs argued the prayers represented government endorsement of religion.
"And the court said, Look, taking offense is not coercion," explains Baxter. "And so the Establishment Clause is not violated just because someone encounters religious views that are counter to their own."
The Becket Fund attorney argues that adults should be able to "see other people's beliefs, hear other people's expressions of belief, and not feel like they're being coerced."
Baxter suggests the courts stop taking cases where people claim they are offended, or get an upset stomach, because of someone's religious views.