Archive for September, 2011

9/11 Ceremony Hoopla

A response to the fussin’ & fumin’ over clergy not being allowed to give invocations at the 9/11 ceremony…

NEW YORK (AP) — Christian conservatives are condemning Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to bar clergy-led prayer at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the terrorist attacks, calling the program an insult. Others wonder whether the mayor is trying to dodge the potentially thorny issue of including a Muslim representative.

The demands of Christian conservatives are insulting.  How dare they insist on ramming their religion down the throats of all citizens.  It is clear they are seeking only to make a public display of their religiosity with no concern for anyone but themselves.

Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, said the program was designed in coordination with 9/11 families and included readings that were “spiritual and personal in nature.” Six moments of silence were planned for personal reflection and prayer. Police and fire chaplains who work with the 9/11 families will attend.

Do evangelical religionists really need special moments set aside in public in order to pray?  They can pray silently during the entire ceremony if they so wish and in their own edifices at any time.  But spare the rest of us in public please.

Several New York religious leaders say they understand the mayor’s position. They point to the multitude of religious events surrounding the anniversary as evidence faith isn’t being overlooked. “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.

It’s encouraging to see that some religious people don’t need to make a public spectacle of their religiosity.

However, critics including the Catholic League and the Family Research Council, argue the program reflects 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.

So these people seriously opened their doors to rescue workers and offered their assistance in order to receive preferential treatment in any ensuing ceremonies?  What incredible arrogance and duplicity.

“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. “The only answer pure and simple is anti-religious prejudice.”

I wasn’t aware that anyone was being banned from the ceremony based on religion.

Last year, protests erupted in response to plans for a Muslim community center and mosque near the site. In July, American Atheists, an advocacy group in New Jersey, sued when a cross that had formed from steel beams that had emerged from the rubble was moved to the site of the national September 11 Memorial and Museum. The building is on government property and is partly funded by tax dollars. The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, has vowed to defend the cross placement and is preparing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a New York firefighter.

Can you say Pharisees?  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!  For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

Not long ago, any New York mayor who left clergy out of a public celebration of this magnitude would pay a major political price within the city. Bloomberg appears not to have suffered such a penalty so far — and Marc Stern, associate general counsel of the American Jewish Committee, said has an idea why. “I think it’s about the place of religion in the culture,” which has grown more secular.

As it should be.  This whole attitude is one of religious terrorism that seeks to control the politics of this secular republic. 

Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, an anti-defamation group based in New York, said the Bloomberg administration seems to be arguing that clergy would detract from the event.

They would detract from it.  We should not be forced to endure the ostentatious prayers of zealous religionists.

The Washington-based Family Research Council, a conservative Christian public policy group, has posted a petition demanding Bloomberg reverse his decision. More than 50,000 people had signed as of Friday, the council says. The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., whose policy director argues that freedom of religion applies only to Christians, called the exclusion of prayer an insult to “the faith of Americans and indeed to God himself.”

This is nothing short of religious terrorism and an insult to our founding fathers.  While they are busy pointing to the sliver in the eye of all who do not belong to their particular religion, they are ignoring the plank in their own.

Land rejected any suggestion that outsiders were trying to cause trouble for New York. He said the event was a national one, commemorating a day when all Americans stood with the city. Fernando Cabrera, a City Council member who is also an evangelical pastor in the Bronx, has called the absence of prayer in the program “a tragic mistake.” The Rev. 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.

Prayer cannot be absent if people attending wish to maintain a silent prayerful vigil during the ceremony.  The only thing they will be prevented from doing is making a spectacle of themselves as the Pharisees did with their public displays in order to “… be heard for their many words.”  Note that no Pagan or Wiccan groups are demanding to be included in the suggested displays of piety.  

This is not a platform for public religious displays, it is a ceremony for the families.   How dare these religionists attempt to take the spotlight off the surviving families so as to shine it on their own piety.  If you want to commemorate the event with prayer, do so in your churches and homes.




Read Full Post »