Despite the proactive response of faith communities to the tragedy surrounding the attacks of September 11, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a decision not to include religious leaders or prayers as part of Sunday’s memorial ceremony.
According to Bloomberg, the ceremony was a time to focus on the families of those killed in the attacks. His decision to exclude the religious community, however, was seen by some as religious discrimination.
In an interview for CNSNews, Project 21, a black conservative advocacy group, said the omission of evangelicals from “A Call to Compassion,” the 9/11 commemoration, revealed discrimination against people of faith.
“It is incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims of 9/11, many of whom are undoubtedly Evangelical Christians,” said Stacy Swimp, spokesperson for Project21.
Fernando Cabrera, New York District 14 council member and pastor of New Life Outreach International, said he had collected 100,000 names on a petition asking for formal prayer in the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies.
CBS News reported Cabrera was not alone in his action to communicate the importance of having prayer at the ceremony. Several dozen New York clergy protested Bloomberg’s decision to not include a clergy-led prayer. The group gathered Saturday at St. Paul’s Cathedral Chapel in Lower Manhattan to hold a prayer service at the edge of ground zero.
Bloomberg’s comments that a memorial service with prayers and religious leaders would be like the government forcing religion down people’s throats did not prevent prayer or religion from being part of the ceremony.
President Barak Obama read Psalm 46, which begins, “God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in trouble,” and ends, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York when the attacks took place in 2001, read Ecclesiastes 3:1-9.
Former President George W. Bush read from a 1864 letter from Abraham Lincoln that said, “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and the lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the alter of freedom.”
In addition to reading from the Bible, Giuliani stated, “God bless every soul that we lost. God bless the family members who have to endure that loss, and God guide us to our reunion in Heaven, and God Bless the United States of America.”