Faith Digest: Court rules Ground Zero cross can stay at museum

Faith Digest: Court rules Ground Zero cross can stay at museum

A cross-shaped beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center can remain on display in the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, dismissing a lawsuit brought by atheists. American Atheists filed a federal suit in 2012 claiming the 17-foot display at the museum built with a mix of public and private funds was unconstitutional, and its members suffered from both physical and emotional damages from the presence of the beamed cross. An observer would understand the cross as an inclusive symbol for any individuals seeking hope and comfort in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Federal Judge Reena Raggi wrote in the court’s decision. Rescue workers found the beam two days after the terrorist attacks. It is part of the 1,000 artifacts in a 100,000-square-foot underground museum. American Atheists can appeal to the entire court or ask the three-judge panel to reconsider its decision before it can file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Turkmenistan added to list of religious liberty offenders. An independent religious freedom watchdog panel welcomed the State Department’s annual religious freedom report and its list of the world’s worst offenders, which had lain dormant for three years. But it questioned why other countries remain missing. The list of “countries of particular concern” had remained unchanged since 2006—and hasn’t been formally issued by the State Department since 2011—when Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan were cited. In April, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the list be doubled to include Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Egypt. Turkmenistan was the only new addition to this year’s CPC list, bringing the total to nine countries. The commission particularly noted the “disappointing omission” of Pakistan. “Pakistan represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated” as countries of particular concern, said Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the commission.

Pope apologizes for persecution of Pentecostals. Pope Francis asked forgiveness for decades of persecution of Italian Pentecostals when he met with around 300 evangelicals from the United States, Argentina and Italy. Francis apologized for the persecution suffered by Pentecostals under Italy’s fascist regime in the 1920s and 1930s and urged Christians to celebrate their diversity and unity. “Catholics were among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy,” Francis said. “I am the shepherd of the Catholics, and I ask you to forgive my Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil.”

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