Demanding Clergy Be Included in 9/11 Ceremony

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?

6 comments for “Demanding Clergy Be Included in 9/11 Ceremony

  1. Christiane
    August 27, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    It would be good to have clergy to represent all the major faith groups of the victims who died on 9/11.

    I imagine that the reason some are hesitant is the amount of anti-Islamic rhetoric that some religious leaders have chosen to engage in.
    But in my own mind, I think that representatives of clergy from all the major religious groups can be found that are not involved in the Islamophobic doctrines and practices of some.

    Here’s the thing: people who are mentally and emotionally unstable have been known to act out under the influence of Islamophobics. And the resulting actions have been tragic.
    I imagine it is with a thought to trying to prevent violence, that ALL ‘clergy’ might be excluded, so as not to seem prejudicial to one sect or cult that advocates Islamophobic beliefs.

    It’s a case of one group spoiling it for everyone. But hate screed truly has no place at the remembrance, because that hate screed is a sign that the attackers had destroyed more in our country than was first thought: the attackers would then be seen as able to get our people to hate and to encourage hatred and intolerance, a ‘victory’ we Americans must deny them.

    • August 27, 2011 at 6:26 PM


      I don’t know why the original decision was made to exclude clergy from the official ceremony, but to say they are somehow excluded now is not accurate. This is an issue which generates lots of emotion (rightly so). To include all major religious faiths, particularly Islam, would be seen by many as inappropriate. Who would be the proper “representatives” of the major faith groups? I think that many who will be participating will no doubt speak about the important role that their personal faith played and continues to play in their lives in light of the 9/11 attacks. If people of faith were told they could not speak about their faith or were muzzled, then I would strenously object. But, with faith groups not officiall represented in the past nine ceremonies, I don’t think that people should demand that faith groups be required to be a part of the ceremony. Will be an interesting weekend, to say the least. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. God bless,


  2. Christiane
    August 27, 2011 at 9:46 PM

    Hello Howell,

    you wrote
    “To include all major religious faiths, particularly Islam, would be seen by many as inappropriate.”

    I don’t think Americans would see the participation of all major religious faiths, including Islam, as inappropriate simply because among the thousands killed in the Towers, there were people of many nations and many faiths, and yes, among the victims were also Muslim people.

    What would be inappropriate, I believe, would be anything in the ceremony that was not honorable. Clergy should have a place in the ceremony, but for their presence to be truly meaningful for all of the victims and their families, the faiths of all should, of course, have representation.

    Why do you think that ‘many’ Americans would be offended by that?
    Most Americans are appalled by Islamophobia, and are horrified by the teachings of those who preach it and practice it. I don’t think that most Americans support that point of view, Howell. I know that some do who follow certain pundits in the media, and certain ‘circuit’ speakers who profit from books and speeches encouraging Islamophobia.

    I think these people are in the minority for sure.

    • August 27, 2011 at 10:02 PM


      I did not say whether those who viewed the inclusion of all major faiths, particularly Islam, were necessarily right in their view that it would be “inappropriate.” There were obviously people of many faiths and no faith at all who died in the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago. That is beyond dispute. However, there would be many (perhaps a vocal minority) who would view the inclusion of a Muslim Imam as somehow inappropriate. This could be a knee-jerk reaction which you and others might label “Islamophobic,” but we cannot alter the reality of those who have been directly and indirectly affected by the events of 9/11. I have no doubt that there will be certain people who try to gin up controversy where none need exist. They have their motives and most people can discern whether their motives are good or bad. As we get closer to the date, it will be interesting to see how the country reacts as a whole. Thanks again for the comments. God bless,


  3. Lydia
    August 28, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    I should hope people are “Islamophobic”. :o) The oppression of women in Islam is criminal and has no place in our society. Unlike Christianity, Islam has an inherent civil law/government which, if carried out, cannot coexist with our constitution. Christians are to be Christians under a dictator, king or democracy. Like the Mormons a hundred years ago, we simply cannot allow them to “practice” their form of government/injustice within their communities. (But they still do in many ways)

    But the good thing is that many Muslims here are cultural Muslims and do not follow the Koran. Thankfully, many are not even familiar with it (As bin Laden once lamented) and simply follow the outward traditions, which are oppressive enough for many women.

    I think it is wise to not include Religion Representatives because then it would become a politically correct event. And, as you said, people can share their faith if they are part of the event.

    I have found it a bit amusing that it is mostly conservatives who are concerned for women’s rights and freedoms when it comes to Islam and not the liberals. Wonder what happened?

    Wade did an interesting piece on what this politically correct multiculturalism is doing to America:

    • Christiane
      August 30, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      Hi Lydia,
      the ‘avatars’ change, but the one whose name we do not mention inhabits them all . . .

      The ‘avatars’ of the evil one have included anti-semitism, homophobia, islamophobia, extreme patriarchy in any religion, and on and on . . .

      same hate, different costumes . . .

      don’t be fooled by any of it, Lydia: the people of the Holocaust understand how evil’s disguises are legion

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