NEW YORK – A judge should toss out a lawsuit by a national atheists group seeking to stop the display of a cross-shaped steel beam found among the wreckage of the World Trade Center, lawyers for the operators of the Sept. 11 memorial at ground zero say.

The lawyers said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Monday that the 17-foot-tall beam will be displayed as a historical object because it tells part of the story of the rescue and recovery effort after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which destroyed the twin towers and killed thousands of people.

They said the display of the cross among 1,000 artifacts, photos, oral histories and videos is no different from the showing of hundreds of religious paintings routinely displayed at government-supported art museums.

The nonprofit group American Atheists sued the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s operators last year, saying the beam’s display would be unconstitutional.