Some Christian religious groups are protesting Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to not include formal religious prayer as part of the ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Towers.
"Rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate, we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died," [Bloomberg's representative Evelyn] Erskine said.
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.
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.
"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."
As the article points out, this has been an ongoing issue in the community. And it's driven in part because the perpetrators of the attack were acting out their particular understanding of their religious beliefs. A set of beliefs that many in mainstream Islam totally reject, making the situation particularly complicated.
What about in your community, or the services you'll be helping to lead? Will you be having formal prayer? What will you be praying for?