The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is approaching, and for some reason, Religious Right groups have decided to manufacture a new “culture war” controversy over a commemorative event that will take place in New York City.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that the focus of the day should be on the families who lost loved ones during the attacks. He hasn’t invited any clergy to speak at the event. Instead, family members will read short passages that are meaningful for them. President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush and some other political leaders will also make brief remarks, but Bloomberg has made it clear that political speeches are not welcome.
Bloomberg’s decision to have no official clergy presence at the event doesn’t mean there will be no religious activity during the ceremony. In fact, there will be six moments of silence, during which attendees can pray, mediate or reflect as dictated by their individual consciences. A spokesperson for the mayor has also stated that some of the readings by family members will undoubtedly be spiritual in nature.
Because the focus will be on 9/11 families, clergy aren’t the only ones who won’t be taking part in the event. 9/11 first responders will also not be on the stage, and some of them are unhappy about that.
But again, that doesn’t mean these groups won’t be recognized. There will be many commemorative events in New York and other cities in and around Sept. 11, 2011. The New York Police Department, for example, has planned an event for Sept. 8 that will include prayers. In addition, an interfaith service to honor first responders is scheduled for Sept. 6.
Yesterday, during an appearance on the web-based FoxNewsLive.com, I debated this issue with Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council. (A portion of the debate can be seen here.) Klukowski opined that Bloomberg’s actions are some sort of affront to religion and an example of radical secularists attempting to purge religion from public life. I reminded him that on Sept. 11, millions of Americans will be praying (if they so choose) even if no clergy are part of a government-sponsored service.
Nevertheless, the Religious Right keeps piling on. Klukowski’s FRC is sponsoring a petition to demand that Bloomberg reverse course. So is TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice. American Family Association blogger Bryan Fischer asserts, with absolutely no evidence, that Bloomberg barred all clergy because he doesn’t want to deal with Muslim clerics. (That’s OK with Fischer – he says such prayers should be limited to Christians and Jews anyway.)
It seems unfathomable to the Religious Right that perhaps Bloomberg is telling the truth and that he’d rather focus the remembrance on the families who lost their loved ones during that tragic day. It seems a fitting tribute to me.
This is just another example of Religious Right groups whipping up hysteria over a manufactured controversy. I expect them to do this when they’re blasting Obama or trying to raise money and get in the media with phony claims of a “war on Christmas” or whatever. But it’s offensive to pull cheap stunts like this over the national trauma that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
Have these people no shame?