Should clergy intentionally be excluded from participating in the NYC ceremony marking the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our nation? That, I would submit, is the wrong question to ask. However, after reading news reports that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that no clergy will participate in this year’s ceremony, one could reasonably conclude that the Mayor has lost his mind (at least politically speaking). Now granted, there is much evidence without the 9/11 clergy kerfuffle to conclude that Mayor Bloomberg is a petty politician who wants to impose a nanny state mentality on New Yorkers (the obsessive regulation of salt comes to mind), but I digress. I love New York City, but I’m glad that I don’t live there — at least while Bloomberg is Mayor.
When I first heard about the so-called “clergy exclusion,” I wasn’t really outraged. I’ve come to expect this kind of thing, particularly from someone like Mayor Bloomberg. I just saw the Mayor’s actions as part of a continuing assault on faith within our nation. Nothing really new to see here. Let’s move along.
However, some conservative Christian organizations are not moving on quite so fast. In fact, several have been quite vocal about this “out-of-the-blue” exclusion of clergy from the 9/11 ceremony this year (full article here). Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, said of the Mayor’s decision:
“At a Ground Zero commemoration for the families of victims, Mayor Bloomberg is allowing the presence of politicians and presidents, but no pastors or prayer. The mayor of course will be there, but politicians weren’t then — and are not now — nearly enough.”
Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania Senator and current Republican Presidential candidate (who I like, but who has absolutely no chance), also called out Mayor Bloomberg for his egregious decision:
“I urge Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his unfortunate decision. It is important to allow clergy to attend and take part in the memorial intended to bind the wounds of a still healing nation,” Santorum said.
To listen to both of these men, some might think that Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to exclude clergy on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 somehow reversed a long-standing tradition of having clergy included in the 9/11 ceremony each year in NYC. That was my thinking. Perhaps that was your thinking as well. Turns out, that thinking is not entirely correct. According to Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna, “none of the other nine services included clergy.” Say what?
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the exclusion of clergy from the previous nine ceremonies, to now argue that not having clergy in the 10th Anniversary ceremony is the equivalent of “excluding clergy” is non-sensical. It makes about as much sense as politicians who scream that reducing the future rate of growth in a particular government program is the same as actually cutting funding for that program. Neither of these arguments are reasonable ones to make, but make them people do.
I can understand why Tony Perkins, who heads a multi-million dollar “non-profit” would want to gin up controversy. It might help with fundraising. Perfectly understandable why a third-tier candidate like Rick Santorum would want to stir the pot. Maybe it will get him noticed before it’s too late (which I think it is).
If clergy had been included in the previous nine ceremonies and were now excluded in the 10th Anniversary ceremony, then a strong argument could be made that Mayor Bloomberg and others are exhibiting an anti-faith animus. And, while that may indeed be true, using the continuing exclusion of clergy will not be very persuasive in making the case.
Now, if Mayor Bloomberg told participants that they could not talk about their faith or mention how God may have comforted them and their families in the aftermath of this horrific attack, then we indeed would have something to rumble about in the Big Apple. But, as far as I know, no such constraints have been placed on individuals who will be participating in this year’s 9/11 ceremony.
Tony Perkins, Rick Santorum and others can demand that Mayor Bloomberg reverse course and include clergy for the first time in this year’s 10th Anniversary ceremony. That is certainly their right. Should clergy have been included in previous ceremonies? Personally, I think so. Should the government be required to include clergy in this year’s 9/11 ceremony on September 11, 2011? Personally, I think not. What say you?