Excluding Religion from NYC’s 9/11 Commemoration, cont.

A follow-up to last week’s post about excluding clergy from NYC’s official 9/11 commemoration.   The city explained that it was excluding clergy because the event was for victims’ families and there were limits to how many people the city could accommodate.  Some observers, though, believed that the city was in fact trying to avoid the “divisiveness” that clergy-led prayers would create.  Others argued the city’s decision reflected a basic hostility to religion; Mayor Bloomberg lent some credibility to that argument on Friday, when he remarked that a memorial service with prayers and religious leaders would be like the government forcing religion “down people’s throats.”

The commemoration took place yesterday.  Clergy were not present, but prayer and scripture readings were part of the program after all.  In fact, the religious references were even more sectarian than many clergy, who are accustomed to presiding at interfaith services like this, might have provided.  President Obama read Psalm 46, a hymn to “the God of Jacob,” in its entirety.  Former Mayor Giuliani read from Ecclesiastes, explaining that “we need” the perspective that comes from “the words of God” expressed in that book.  (Actually, they’re the words of “the Preacher,” but even so).  Were the President and the former mayor forcing faith on anyone?  The religious references, so much a part of the American tradition at events like these, appeared to cause no disturbance at all.   – MLM

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