No clergy-led prayer at 9/11 anniversary causes controversy

Conservative Catholic and Christian groups are condemning New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to ban clergy-led prayer at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Catholic League and the Family Research Council, say the event shows a prejudice against religion and ignores the central role religious groups played in the city’s 9/11 response.

For weeks, Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal congregation near ground zero, allowed rescue workers to operate from its chapel. Faith-based service agencies volunteered for a range of duties, from feeding recovery teams to counseling families. Clergy organized interfaith services for the city, most prominently at Yankee Stadium.

“Nobody was turning religious leaders away from the scene 10 years ago. Why are they being banned from the 10th anniversary?” said the Rev. Richard Land, who leads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant group.

Fernando Cabrera, a City Council member who is also an evangelical pastor in the Bronx called the decision a “tragic mistake” and Reverend Thomas Margrave, an Episcopal priest who is a board member of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains, said “it seems extremely curious” that prayer is included in so many public ceremonies, including the presidential inauguration, but not at ground zero, where prayer was so important.

Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League has launched a petition demanding Bloomberg reverse his decision.

However several New York religious leaders say they understand the mayor’s position.

“I just think a decision was made to give priority to the families. If this means more families will be attending, I think all of us can accept that,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Catholic archbishop, Timothy Dolan said he met with the mayor about a month ago and had discussed the ceremony.

“He, too, I think was under some restrictions. I think other people were involved in the planning not just him,” Dolan said in an interview last week with the cable news outlet NY1. “He was very honest and up front. ‘I think it’s very limited. It may not be the way I want it, but it’s just going to be immediate family and the political people who were in office then and political people now.’ I’m fine with that.”

Dolan said he and other clergy have “stacks of invitations” for prayer services surrounding the anniversary.

Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center who researches religious liberty, said he worries that Bloomberg may have jettisoned clergy prayer to avoid any controversy about Islam, since he would have to include a Muslim representative.

“Bloomberg is in a no-win situation here.”


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,