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Religious controversy over major 9/11 events

Religious controversy over major 9/11 events

Some evangelical groups and conservative commentators complain that evangelicals–and even religion itself–is being excluded from some of the major commemorations set to take place this weekend in New York and Washington a decade after the 9/11 attacks.


The New York Times reports:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has come under attack by some religious and political leaders for not including clergy members as speakers at Sunday’s official ceremony at ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Richard D. Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in an interview that the planned ceremony only proved that New York was the “epicenter of secularism,” out of step with the rest of America.

“We’re not France,” he said. “Mr. Bloomberg is pretending we’re a secular society, and we are not.”

Congressman Randy Forbes, a Republican representative from Virginia and a co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sent Mr. Bloomberg a letter on behalf of the caucus members urging him to include prayer in the ceremony.

In Washington, evangelicals claim they have been excluded from the prayer service that was scheduled for the Washington National Cathedral until the service was moved to Washington Hebrew Congregation:

The controversy was fueled this week on Fox News when Gretchen Carlson, co-host of “Fox and Friends,” said that because of “political correctness,” the cathedral had included “fringe groups” like Buddhist nuns in the prayer service, but not Baptists.

“We’re going to have a Buddhist nun, which we didn’t even know existed,” she said.

Christianity Today related the story this way:

A 9/11 interfaith prayer vigil at the Cathedral earlier in the day will include Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane, Rabbi Bruce Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche of Tibet, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, Dr. D.C. Rao, a representative of the Hindu and Jain faiths and Imam Mohamed Magid.

A representative of the Southern Baptist Convention pointed out that the list of prayer participants does not include any evangelicals. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, protested that for a church service, the line-up seemed better suited for a meeting of the United Nations.

According to Richard Weinberg, the National Cathedral’s director of communications, the choice of participants emphasized diversity in order to “appeal to as many in the country as possible.”

“The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives,” he told Fox News Radio.

The NYT writes that the controversy points to the “divide” between mainline and evangelical Protestants.

The cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and some conservative evangelical figures say they are uncomfortable that the cathedral is often the site of major events in the national spotlight.

Richard Weinberg, director of communications for the cathedral, said it had never excluded evangelicals. He noted that three days after the terrorist attacks in 2001, the Rev. Billy Graham preached at the national prayer service at the cathedral, which Mr. Bush attended.

…there may be other changes as well (as the change in location). Mr. Weinberg said the list of clergy was still being made final and might include at least one Baptist minister.

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Rod Gillis

@ Ann Fontaine "Seems to me like the U.S. thinks it is the only country ever to suffer from terrorists. And clergy want to get their share of the limelight. Sort of makes me wonder about my own motives for a remembrance."

I can't really comment in any depth on the politics and protocols at play in a particular 911 observance; but Not commemorating 911 would be like not commemorating D-Day or the Battle of the Atlantic. I live in a community to which a large number of 911 flights were diverted. The 911 attacks are linked politically and historically to the War in Afghanistan and all the misery it has created for all involved. I can't imagine leading parish liturgies on Sunday without acknowledging 911 and the 10th anniversary.

How can worship be meaningful in terms of social responsibility if there is no connection with major current events?

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Priscilla Cardinale

And yet nothing is mentioned about presidential hopeful Rick Perry's recent "prayer" event in Texas where all non-evangelical, non-Dominionist Christians were loudly and publicly excluded. There is no controversy, just regular conservative trouble-stirring to make political hay under the aegis of God's holy name. Fear the price of that unholy use would be my advice.

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Ann Fontaine

Seems to me like the U.S. thinks it is the only country ever to suffer from terrorists. And clergy want to get their share of the limelight. Sort of makes me wonder about my own motives for a remembrance.

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Melodie Woerman

I heard on NPR earlier this week that the no clergy (and no first responder) rule has been in effect for all NYC 9/11 anniversaries since the first one. That official event always has been designed just for the families of victims. Apparently no one has complained until now.

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Rod Gillis

@Gretchen Carlson “We’re going to have a Buddhist nun, which we didn’t even know existed,”

What a perfect example of unintended irony.

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