There will be no prayer service at this year’s 9/11 commemoration ceremony in New York. Mayor Bloomberg apparently wants to keep this a secular affair. Ten years after a city-sponsored interfaith remembrance service was held at Yankee Stadium, New York City officials apparently feel uncomfortable with allowing religious leaders to take the podium. From the NYT:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg…[is] not including clergy members as speakers at Sunday’s official ceremony at ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the attacks…In a nation of unprecedented religious diversity, the United States once managed to navigate religion in public life with relatively generic acknowledgments of the sacred — a tradition often referred to as civil religion.
This was an opportunity to show the world that the United States is a united, diverse, and tolerant society. It is a shame that Mayor Bloomberg feels something as basic as including religious diversity in a thoughtful way at an important public events is beyond his capacity.The US is full of religion of all shapes and sizes. Luckily, we get along pretty well most of the time. Let’s present that to the world. Religion is not something to be grimaced at, ignored, or pushed to the side on an important day like this Sunday.Just on the narrow ground of reducing hostility among some Muslims toward the United States, demonstrating our nation’s respect for religion, and including Islamic clergy in an interfaith group in an honored place at the ceremony would be a powerful message. Commemorating this event without religious participation sends a message of hostility in the Islamic world; the perceived atheism and secularism of the west is a much deeper cause of Islamic suspicion and anger than the presence of Christianity — or even of Judaism.The hollow rhetoric and conventional cliches that politicians habitually spout at events like this one are superficial and soporific. One turns to the clergy, bringing ancient words of comfort and reassurance to provide some dignity and honor to these events. Sadly, the Mayor has decided that tinny political rhetoric from the hacks of the day is all the survivors, the families of the dead, and the rest of us need on this solemn occasion.