#AAcon13 »« Morning session

Ruling

Dave is pissed. A judge ruled in the World Trade Center cross case today – Dave was brandishing the actual ruling, with a big red blob visible on it (I’m assuming a seal). The judge dismissed it – the cross is just “secular.”

That’s such a crock of shit, just as it is with the ten commandments slab here at the state house – it’s highly conspicuous, there’s nothing secular apparent, and at the top it naturally begins with god god god god god. Worship god, have no other god, blah blah blah.  Secular?

This is why we need American Atheists.

Comments

  1. Randomfactor says

    On the other hand, WE can dismiss it as secular, because the Christianists swore up and down that it wasn’t religious. Just like In Go D Wet Rust on money.

    Yeah, I know, we still need American Atheists.

  2. says

    I’m starting to feel like the only atheist in this country who just doesn’t give a shit about the fucking cross.

    They aren’t making it the centerpiece of the museum. It joins other non-Christian religious memorabilia either found at the site or donated by families of victims of the attack. It is quite literally being treated as just another piece to see at the museum and that’s it.

    Seriously…

    If we’re going to be taken seriously in the political world, this is probably the worst fucking fight we could have chosen (almost as bad as crying about “Seven in Heaven Way”).

    There are bigger fish to fry, like the fact that an atheist still can’t run for President. That’s a hell of a lot more important than a stupid fucking cross that is being treated as nothing more than a random exhibit amongst numerous exhibits at the museum.

  3. Aratina Cage says

    On both Twitter (see the place where you put your name, it’s his actual name now) and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheHonestAtheist/posts/631306743550245

    Looks like he was the guy (another gay man, can you believe it?) starting up the anti-atheism-plus section of reddit, and when he complained to the mods of the LGBT section on reddit, he told them he owned the anti-A+ reddit area and they banned him for being the guy behind that. This threw him into a fit, and he did the FB post in the link above where he threatened to donate $1,000.00 to the Westboro Baptist Church to show those mean LGBT people on reddit. Then he tweeted links to his Facebook on the #FTBullies hashtag, which is how I found out about it. I used to know him on Twitter as KrankyPanz. The whole thing is very upsetting, but at least it’s all out there now.

  4. screechymonkey says

    Randomfactor@1

    On the other hand, WE can dismiss it as secular, because the Christianists swore up and down that it wasn’t religious.

    Yeah, there’s a nice little two-step dance that goes on where these kinds of things are defended in court as being just “ceremonial deism” that doesn’t really have anything to do with actually professing a belief in God. I think the epitome was the Pledge of Allegiance case, where the “under God” part was defended in court as “silly atheists, nobody actually thinks that’s an acknowledgement of a higher power,” but everywhere else Newdow was bashed for being so sacriligeous.

    (I get a similar vibe when 12-steppers insist that oh no, that “higher power” thing isn’t religious at all — though at least there the courts have wised up in cases where it’s been an issue.)

    NateHevens@5

    There are bigger fish to fry, like the fact that an atheist still can’t run for President.

    I don’t know if anybody here is watching “House of Cards” on Netflix but in episode seven (minor spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched it yet), Rep. Pete Russo complains to Underwood’s aide Stamper that he really can’t get into the whole “higher power” thing (he’s started attending AA meetings as part of his political comeback) because he doesn’t believe in God. The next day, he’s giving an interview about why he’s cleaned up his act, and he says there are two reasons: his kids, and his “rekindled deep faith in God.” I loved that the show didn’t bother to have a scene where Stamper or Underwood tells him he’d better fake having religion — it’s just a given that this is what a politician has to do in America.

  5. carlie says

    So they shouldn’t mind “Piss Christ” now that it’s been ruled to be secular, then?

  6. arbor says

    NateHevens:

    There are no small battles.

    Every foot we gain is at risk tomorrow. Every foot they gain is theirs for several lifetimes.

    The ratchet effect works against us.

    This case is a loss for us – not because it wasn’t worth fighting for, but because a judge is unworthy.

    Please don’t undermine what the rest of us are working for.

  7. says

    @ #6, Aratina:

    That’s because the LGBT Reddit is co-run by none other than FTB’s own Zinnia Jones and her fiancée. Engines for spewing hate at FTB (and presumably by extension A+, as the slymepitters don’t seem to distinguish) are frowned on.

  8. says

    arbor @ #10:

    NateHevens:

    There are no small battles.

    Every foot we gain is at risk tomorrow. Every foot they gain is theirs for several lifetimes.

    The ratchet effect works against us.

    This case is a loss for us – not because it wasn’t worth fighting for, but because a judge is unworthy.

    Please don’t undermine what the rest of us are working for.

    There are no small battles?

    You’re… joking, right?

    How’s about some empathy and compassion surrounding on of the worst tragedies the US has seen in a long time?

    THIS CROSS IS NOT PROMINENT! IT DOES NOT REPRESENT THE MUSEUM!

    Seriously… look here:
    http://www.911memorial.org/photo-albums/911-memorial-museum-renderings

    Look at picture 7. Look at how they plan on representing the cross.

    Is out front of the building, high on a pedestal, declaring the glory of God?

    Nope. Not even close.

    Look even closer. Notice anything else?

    A whole bunch of exhibits highlighting the fucking recovery effort. Picture 8 shows even more.

    Then let’s consider this… there will be other religious symbols present, including a Star of David cut out of the steel, a bible infused into the steel, and a Jewish prayer shawl belonging to one of the victims. I didn’t see American Atheists going after those. In fact, that stuff was conveniently ignored for… what? Publicity?

    David insists that the cross is getting “special treatment”.

    It’s not. Not even close

    It’s not getting any more special treatment than any of the other exhibits at the museum.

    So you’re worried about it getting “special treatment”?

    Congratulations! You won! The so-called “cross” is just a piece of the exhibit highlighting the recovery efforts!

    Let’s celebrate!

    This was a frivolous lawsuit from the beginning, and it has been rightly treated as such.

    It’d be one thing if they planned to put the cross front-and-center. If they had decided it’d be a great way to introduce the museum to tourists; to place it on a pedestal out front of the museum with a giant plaque extolling the glory of God. Then yes, there’d be a case. That’d be worthy of a high-profile lawsuit.

    But this is fucking ridiculous. This is picking fights for the sake of fighting. They aren’t even putting a damn plaque on teh cross! They are literally presenting it as a piece of the building that was recovered.

    That’s it! Nothing about Jesus or Christianity!

    I’m sorry, but I fail to see the problem, here. I fail to see what, exactly, is worthy of a lawsuit, here.

  9. says

    Apologies for the yelling and language, but this case pisses me off, not just because of the misinformation surrounding it. I really do feel like we’re coming off as the bad guys on this one.

    This is legitimately not a violation of the first amendment. That cross is just a part of the recovery effort. They are including all of the unique artifacts that were found, and that cross, minus the religious bullshit, is a unique artifact found at Ground Zero that meant something to people.

    It is simply being presented as part of the exhibit, not as the main feature. There really isn’t anything to sue over on this one.

    There simply isn’t.

  10. zibble says

    @15

    They are including all of the unique artifacts that were found, and that cross, minus the religious bullshit, is a unique artifact found at Ground Zero that meant something to people.

    Unless I’m mistaken, it wasn’t exactly “found”, it was made from the wreckage.

    Constitutional issues aside, dear god, that cross is a tasteless piece of shit. Why don’t we just take the ashes of the 9/11 victims and mold them into Jesus fish?

    9/11 was an attack motivated by religious terrorism. For people to mold the rubble of that attack into a symbol of their own tribal, sectarian beliefs – made doubly creepy by the fact that our response to 9/11 was war with religious overtones, often purposefully referencing the old Crusades – it’s just hideous.

    The issue is purely over the fact that this is being paid for with public money. If the cross was on display in a church or a private museum, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. The simple fact is that the message behind that cross is that, in times of crisis, we should turn to Christianity (or any religion) for comfort – that is not an apolitical agenda, in fact it’s pretty insidious, and it’s not an agenda our tax dollars should be supporting.

  11. says

    zibble, they are also featuring a Star of David that was carved from a piece of the wreckage.

    Thoughts about that?

    Also, you don’t need to argue with me about the general offensiveness of it. I first heard about this through the Daily Show. I agreed with Jon on his take until he went after David for what he said about it:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-august-4-2011/culture-war-update—the-dividening-of-america—american-atheists-vs–the-ground-zero-cross

    To put it bluntly, David was right. It is ridiculous and offensive. It really pisses me off, to be honest, that God can’t lose. No matter what happens, no matter what tragedy occurs, God is always the hero. It is offensive and disgusting.

    But that does not make the cross a problem. The fact is, it’s an artifact of the recovery effort, in the same way that carved Jewish star is, and the bible, and the prayer shawl. This cross is not the only religious symbol being displayed, and the fight over it is petty. I’m not saying there aren’t important fights. Indeed, that’s what makes me so angry about this. There are tons of important fights. In fact, nearly every other fight we’re fighting is more important than this stupid cross. I just don’t get why it’s so bad when it is only being shown as part of the recovery effort and that’s it. It’s not to create some chapel, it’s not the defining feature of the museum. It’s meant to be part of the history and nothing more.

    So I still fail to see what’s so offensive about them being thorough in representing the recovery effort…

  12. says

    I don’t recall seeing where the judge claimed the cross is secular

    From your link:

    Batts wrote that the cross and its accompanying panels of text “helps demonstrate how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort.” She called its purpose “historical and secular” and noted that it will be housed at the museum in the “Finding Meaning at Ground Zero” section with placards explaining its meaning and the reason for its inclusion. It also will be surrounded by secular artifacts.

    I think the question about its purpose is at the heart of it. I remember at the time of the Daily Show bit (in which Stewart didn’t disclose his COI) reading a little about the history. It was up on a pedestal at the site earlier, then moved – after being blessed – to St. Peter’s Church where it seems it was being treated as a religious object.

    It does appear from the renderings that it’ll be amongst the other objects and displayed as a historical artifact (in my more suspicious moments I think that if it hadn’t been for the controversy/lawsuit it would have returned to an outdoor pedestal), though it is really quite large in comparison to the others and able to responded to as a religious object in a way small items aren’t.

    I think it’s complicated because it’s plainly seen as a religious object by many people, so all they could do is try to display it in a way that marks and establishes its purpose in the museum as historical and secular. It’s possible that they’ll be mostly successful at that, but there are no guarantees, and even if the lawsuit fails it probably pushed them to historicize and secularize its display as much as possible so they could include it.

    Frankly, “Finding Meaning at Ground Zero” sounds pretty schmaltzy whatever they display.

  13. says

    and even if the lawsuit fails it probably pushed them to historicize and secularize its display as much as possible so they could include it.

    Actually, the more I think about it, the more this looks like a victory. Instead of a blessed shrine reaching to heaven and proclaiming the glory of Jesus, as it’s been treated for several years, it’s now going to be primarily an anthropological/historical exhibit in an underground museum – one of many showing how different people made meaning of the event. That’s how people are used to seeing Native American religious objects treated – not Christian ones.

    In that sense, it’s amusing. In making it all about inclusion in the memorial, they desacralized their own cross. For their purposes, they’d have been better off leaving it at the church.

  14. dgrasett says

    at #16
    “Constitutional issues aside, dear god, that cross is a tasteless piece of shit. Why don’t we just take the ashes of the 9/11 victims and mold them into Jesus fish?”
    Because then we could put legs on them?

  15. says

    SC (Salty Current) @ #20:

    Thank you!

    Except that, for the builders of the museum, that’s all it’s ever been. The plans from the builders had it simply as a random part of the exhibit from the very beginning.

    Now, I do know that there were Christians who wanted it as the center-piece of a chapel, but they didn’t get their wish. Really, they can’t even pray at it. So they failed in that regard. So if anything, we atheists got what we wanted from the very beginning. Despite Fox News (and why the hell would anyone take them seriously in the first place?) and some evangelical Christians, this cross has always been seen as a historical artifact by the builders, as that’s how they treated it from the beginning.

    The general populace can look at it however they damn well please. They aren’t getting a chapel. If they were, then it’d be a legitimate fight. But they aren’t, and that’s why I really don’t like this one; that’s why I see it as frivolous. Except to some evangelical Christians and Fox Conservative Christian Propaganda Machine News, this was never anything more than an artifact from the site.

    So yes, I’m glad it got thrown out, because it was a worthless, needlessly offensive (not offensive as in insulting, but as in the opposite of defensive… like in Football) lawsuit.

    And, in case anyone thinks differently, I’m in favor of the vast majority of lawsuits brought against cases of government-sponsored religion. I support the effort to get the Ten Commandments removed from courtrooms. I desperately want to see those 11(?) states that have a religious test in their constitution get sued for it. I’m fighting for the day when a presidential candidate’s religion, or lack thereof, means nothing to the voting populace. I support most efforts to secularize public Christmas displays (I don’t think it’s frivolous to, for example, sue a public, government-owned courthouse for putting up a nativity scene) into either simple secular holiday displays (the tree and such), or a forum for any and all religions to showcase their different holidays to the world (I still want to see a public and proud Hogswatch display… :D).

    So, to be clear, I think the vast majority of lawsuits and other cases we take on as atheists are worthy. But that doesn’t mean every lawsuit is good. Rarely we do miss the target, and this was one of those times.

  16. jflcroft says

    I agree with NateHevens here – I’ve yet to see a single cogent defense of the suit which accurately portrays the facts of the case. I’m very much in support of much of what AA does, but in this instance I believe they deserved to lose and are foolish to appeal.

  17. George says

    “As a survivor of the 9/11 attack and family member of one of the brave responders to the 9/11 attack, Mark Panzarino is appalled that the state has permitted a symbol of Christianity to represent a tragedy that affected all Americans. The Panzarinos unequivocally do not wish for a cross to represent Frank Joseph Panzarino’s sacrifice unless it is a Lutheran Cross,” Panzarino says. (emphasis added)

    So Mark Panzarino and his family wouldn’t have a problem with the cross if it were a Lutheran Cross?!??!

    The hypocrisy is astounding.

    LOL

  18. Dave J L says

    I’m with NateHevens on this one too.

    @arbor

    Please don’t undermine what the rest of us are working for.

    But I think pursuing this particular lawsuit is undermining the secular cause. There are good, sound reasons to argue against state-sponsored manifestations of religion, but this case isn’t like that – as far as I can tell the cross will be an artefact in a museum like thousands of religious artefacts in museums across the world, there because it is part of the September 11 narrative and presented as a historical object. By pursuing this lawsuit American Atheists are in danger of appearing not as advocates of an equal, secular society but of one where religious symbols are actively suppressed.

  19. says

    SC (Salty Current) @ #20:

    Thank you!

    Except that, for the builders of the museum, that’s all it’s ever been. The plans from the builders had it simply as a random part of the exhibit from the very beginning.

    Now, I do know that there were Christians who wanted it as the center-piece of a chapel, but they didn’t get their wish. Really, they can’t even pray at it. So they failed in that regard. So if anything, we atheists got what we wanted from the very beginning. Despite Fox News (and why the hell would anyone take them seriously in the first place?) and some evangelical Christians, this cross has always been seen as a historical artifact by the builders, as that’s how they treated it from the beginning.

    The general populace can look at it however they damn well please. They aren’t getting a chapel.

    Hmm…

    As I said, I think it’s true that this is a good outcome for atheists/secularists (as far as I can tell, and I might be missing some important facts).* But however the builders say they saw/see it, there has always been good reason to keep the controversy alive in order to keep them honest.

    - It’s huge.
    - It was treated as a Christian shrine-type thing at the site.
    - It spent several years by a church, where it was treated as a Christian shrine-type thing.
    - It was blessed by a priest.
    - It has a sign on it that reads at the end something like “A sign of comfort for all,” with “all” in even larger letters than the rest.
    - According to Silverman, it was installed at the site in an unexpected religious ceremony with another blessing and the consecration of the ground (unless I’m confused about the timing of things).
    - Generally, I don’t trust Christians in the US in these sorts of matters. If there’s an opportunity to capitalize religiously, they overwhelmingly tend to take it, and aren’t above deceit. Moreover, once things are in place, it’s extremely hard to change them.

    So I’m not as convinced as you – whatever the builders say – that AA didn’t need to stir up a fuss from the start to keep them honest and ensure that the presentation is as secular and historical as possible. Of course, counterfactuals are hard to argue, but the story of this object and the track record of Christians in the US leads me to think this outcome (again, whatever the plans on paper) wasn’t inevitable. I understand that you might disagree.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I think the lawsuit was the best action (I don’t know enough about the facts of the case to have a strong opinion about that). Maybe the threat of a lawsuit if they strayed from the official plan would have been enough. In any case, I don’t think they should appeal.

    * If it’s about “finding meaning,” though, I do think the exhibit should include something about atheists there finding meaning, and perhaps responding to the religious framing (as well as non-Christians responding to the Christian framing).

  20. says

    I do think we should keep pushing the anthropology angle, since that’s the most interesting and also what they now have to stand by. It would be funny if there were plaques reading things like, “The Christian tribe of the era, who had a tendency to find meaningful signs and symbols almost anywhere (see: laminin, toast, dogs’ butts),…”

  21. says

    Dave J L @ #25:

    By pursuing this lawsuit American Atheists are in danger of appearing not as advocates of an equal, secular society but of one where religious symbols are actively suppressed.

    Exactly. This has created an all-too perfect narrative for those who wish to claim that atheists are anti-Christian bigots. We know we aren’t, but shit like this doesn’t help.

    SC (Salty Current), OM @ #26:

    - It’s huge.

    Actually, I think media shots made it look bigger than it really is. It certainly doesn’t look that big in those digital renderings of the museum I linked to above (there’s at least one bigger piece in the same exhibit), but I’ve no idea if those renderings are to scale, so…

    Either way, it’s definitely not the biggest artifact in the memorial.

    - It was treated as a Christian shrine-type thing at the site.

    Yet again: someone carved a Jewish Star out of some of the wreckage. It was a chapel for Jews until it was moved to a local synagogue. Then it was moved to the site of the museum. Same goes for the bible they found and the Jewish prayer shawl of one of the victims that was donated.

    Why isn’t anybody up in arms about the star, bible, and prayer shawl?

    - It spent several years by a church, where it was treated as a Christian shrine-type thing.

    Same with the star, except for Jews instead of Christians.

    - It was blessed by a priest.

    As was the Bible. The star and shawl were both blessed by a Rabbi.

    - It has a sign on it that reads at the end something like “A sign of comfort for all,” with “all” in even larger letters than the rest.

    It did have that sign. I’ve not seen or heard anything about that sign still being there. I thought it was removed before being taken from the church for the museum. Note that I could be wrong about this, though…

    -According to Silverman, it was installed at the site in an unexpected religious ceremony with another blessing and the consecration of the ground (unless I’m confused about the timing of things).

    The religious ceremony was a private ceremony set up by the local churches. Not a single public dollar was used for that.

    -Generally, I don’t trust Christians in the US in these sorts of matters. If there’s an opportunity to capitalize religiously, they overwhelmingly tend to take it, and aren’t above deceit. Moreover, once things are in place, it’s extremely hard to change them.

    You aren’t wrong, here. But the untrustworthiness of Christians doesn’t change the fact that the cross is being officially treated as a historical/anthropological artifact from the site.

    * If it’s about “finding meaning,” though, I do think the exhibit should include something about atheists there finding meaning, and perhaps responding to the religious framing (as well as non-Christians responding to the Christian framing).

    To be fair, what, exactly, could they include for atheists? Don’t the non-religious artifacts sort of already qualify?

    SC (Salty Current), OM @ #27:

    I do think we should keep pushing the anthropology angle, since that’s the most interesting and also what they now have to stand by. It would be funny if there were plaques reading things like, “The Christian tribe of the era, who had a tendency to find meaningful signs and symbols almost anywhere (see: laminin, toast, dogs’ butts),…”

    *snort*

    If only! One day… one day, we’ll be there. But it won’t be for a long time, unfortunately… :(

  22. zibble says

    @18 NateHeavens

    zibble, they are also featuring a Star of David that was carved from a piece of the wreckage.

    Thoughts about that?

    lol, what is there to say though? Christianists always throw the Jews a bone when they’re trying to show they don’t have a sectarian agenda. I mean, if the cross genuinely wasn’t a sectarian monument then they wouldn’t have felt obligated to construct a star of david – which is also pretty tokenising, I think, it’s my understanding that the star of david doesn’t really mean anything similar to the cross (anyone raised Jewish, feel free to correct me).

    They just really ought to have left the GZX in the church where it belonged. There’s clearly a lot more than a purely historical significance to it.

  23. says

    Actually, I think media shots made it look bigger than it really is. It certainly doesn’t look that big in those digital renderings of the museum I linked to above (there’s at least one bigger piece in the same exhibit), but I’ve no idea if those renderings are to scale, so…

    Some of the photos have people in them, so you can get a sense of the scale. It’s big. They had to lower it in at the beginning because it was too big to get in after the museum was constructed.

    Either way, it’s definitely not the biggest artifact in the memorial.

    I’d wager it’s the largest artifact in “Finding Meaning” by some stretch.

    Yet again: someone carved a Jewish Star out of some of the wreckage. It was a chapel for Jews until it was moved to a local synagogue. Then it was moved to the site of the museum. Same goes for the bible they found and the Jewish prayer shawl of one of the victims that was donated.

    Why isn’t anybody up in arms about the star, bible, and prayer shawl?…

    I think it’s in large part a matter of size (and the way it can therefore be related to, as a Bible can’t). I can’t get a sense how big the Star of David is, but it’s not monumental in that way. And, really, there’s in realistic terms no danger of the US government endorsing Judaism in any way like the danger/reality of its endorsement of Christianity. That said, there’s no artifact that we shouldn’t make sure is presented in a secular, historical way, and we should look at all of them with a beady eye.

    It did have that sign. I’ve not seen or heard anything about that sign still being there. I thought it was removed before being taken from the church for the museum. Note that I could be wrong about this, though…

    But that’s part of the problem. First, we just don’t know. Second, that sign was up when the lawsuit was filed, I think. If the sign’s gone – and I suspect it isn’t – it’s not because of the builders’ plans. But this is where the complexity comes in: the sign is an attempt to monopolize a human experience, but also a historical artifact. It’s our role to ensure that it’s presented, if it’s presented in the museum at all, as the latter to the greatest extent possible. You seem to think that would happen with or without our watching and action, but I’m not at all sure of that.

    The religious ceremony was a private ceremony set up by the local churches. Not a single public dollar was used for that.

    That’s not the point, though. The point was that this is a sign that a powerful contingent does not consider it a historical artifact or museum piece. That relates to whether its purpose in the museum is fully “secular and historical.” That’s why we have to be suspicious and proactive in some form.

    You aren’t wrong, here. But the untrustworthiness of Christians doesn’t change the fact that the cross is being officially treated as a historical/anthropological artifact from the site.

    But my argument is a historical one: Is it being treated that way in practice rather than just in words because of the controversy, or would it be in any case? I suspect the former, but of course I can’t prove it.

    To be fair, what, exactly, could they include for atheists? Don’t the non-religious artifacts sort of already qualify?

    They could include recordings of interviews with atheists about meanings (available on headphones), quotations on plaques, and much more. It can make people think. It doesn’t have to be objects.

    This raises an interesting question, though. I think I suggested at the time of TDS piece that they could easily have put pictures of the cross and people surrounding it in the museum and left the thing itself at the church. Museums in this century aren’t just about objects. Museuming (hurts just to write it, but it’s a real thing) has come a long way, and can be about experiences and asking questions and challenging rather than just standing in front of objects.

    Hm. Talking and thinking about how the experience is or could be publicly represented is kind of therapeutic for me, so thanks!

  24. N. Nescio says

    I’m usually 100% supportive of the fight to prevent government preference of one religion over any other or none. I generally get supremely irritated when I see “I’m an atheist but I’m okay with (prayer at city council meetings|photos of jesus in schools|whatever else)” posts from people who really ought to know better. I give money to AA and FFRF.

    But in this case? What AA is doing is asinine, for many good reasons others have already stated. There are WAY better battles to pick, and this one wasn’t even worth the effort.

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