New York mayor bans clergy from praying at 9/11 anniversary
NEW YORK, September 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The mayor of New York City has disallowed clergy from praying at an event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, sparking indignation from leaders who have pointed to the pivotal role religious groups played in the heroic response to the tragedy.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that, as in previous years, this weekend’s commemoration would include readings “spiritual and personal in nature,” according to an Associated Press report. Bloomberg’s office characterized the affair as focused on relatives of victims.
Christian leaders, however, are calling the ban an insult to the memory of how the faith provided solace and the faithful worked to save lives in the city’s darkest hour.
“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 of the Southern Baptist Convention, according to AP. “The only answer pure and simple is anti-religious prejudice.”
While some say that Bloomberg may be trying to avoid fanning religious controversy since, according to one expert who spoke to AP, he would want to include a Muslim representative in the proceedings, Land and others say a Muslim leader would be welcome, alongside representatives of other faiths.
Another group of Christian leaders announced plans for a separate prayer service on Saturday at St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway, saying they are “deeply troubled that Mayor Bloomberg has banned all prayer, public expressions of faith and clergy at the Sunday 9/11 Memorial Service.”
“In the dark days after 9/11, millions of Americans turned to God in prayer for strength, comfort, guidance and assurance. This was especially true for those who lost loved ones,” said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition.
Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council, another participant in the prayer service, recalled how churches in New York and across America were flooded with distraught friends and family members of victims, as well as ordinary citizens seeking consolation and hope immediately after the attack.
“Our intention is to address that need in the hearts and minds of so many affected by the pain of that infamous day,” he said.
The Family Research Council has gathered over 55,000 signatures in a petition demanding that Bloomberg reverse his decision. FRC president Tony Perkins criticized Bloomberg for a “glaring omission” in not inviting 9/11 first responders to the event.
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