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2nd Circuit News: Atheists' Steel Cross to Bear, the ACLU and Aereo

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 12, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's never a dull day in the Second Circuit, and cases at varying stages of litigation are progressing through the courts. Today we look at an atheist group's challenge to the inclusion of a steel cross in a 9/11 museum, the ACLU's appeal of a phone data ruling and the Department of Justice weighs in on the Aereo case that the Supreme Court will hear in April.

Atheists Challenge 9/11 Steel Cross

An activist group of atheists, American Atheists, continues to challenge the inclusion of a steel cross in a 9/11 museum. The steel cross was formed by the debris of the World Trade Center and is being included as one of the many artifacts left from the destruction. For some, the cross was seen as a symbol of hope, but some atheists have allegedly been suffering from "physical and emotional pain" because of the crosses inclusion in the museum, reports The Blaze.

A district judge threw out the complaint last summer, and now the American Atheists argued their appeal before the Second Circuit last week, says The Blaze. The American Atheists argue that the steel cross is a religious shrine that should be removed, or in the alternative, atheists should be allowed to have their own symbol present. It seems the thrust of the issue will depend on how the cross is characterized; that is, whether the cross is a religious symbol, or merely an artifact. We'll keep you posted on what the Second Circuit decides.

ACLU Appeals NSA Phone Data Ruling

In a case instigated by Edward Snowden's leak of the U.S. Government's activities, the ACLU sued to challenge the National Security Administration's policy of collection telephone records of millions of Americans, rather than focusing solely on terrorism suspects. The ACLU argued that the practice violated the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Americans, but a "U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III . . . . [held] that the phone surveillance program was legal and a necessary tool for the government to stop terrorism," reports the Associated Press.

Last week, the ACLU filed their appeal with the Second Circuit. Depending on the outcome, we may have a circuit split brewing. A D.C. district judge ruled the program "likely violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable search," according to the AP. If a circuit split does emerge, we're counting on a Supreme Court opinion on this issue.

DoJ Supports Broadcasters in Aereo Case

On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., et al., v/ Aereo, Inc., a case that is widely watched because of the chilling effect it can have on major broadcasters. Whether Aereo's retransmission of copyright works through tiny antennas are "public performance" is for the Court to determine, but that hasn't stopped an onslaught of amicus briefs from being filed. Included among the many briefs filed, is one by the Department of Justice supporting the broadcasters, and seeking reversal of the Second Circuit's decision.

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