Clergy and 9/11 Ceremonies: Conflicts Reveal State of Religion in Our Culture

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has written a fine piece on some of the controversy surrounding 9/11 ceremonies and the inclusion or exclusion of clergy: “Omitting Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony Prompts Protest.”

Goodstein describes the decision of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York to exclude all members of the clergy from Sunday’s commemoration. There is a related controversy in Washington DC, where an interfaith service planned for the National Cathedral will not include a Southern Baptist or over evangelical clergyperson. According to the website of this Episcopal church, the following religious leaders will include the following:

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 Hindu priest serving on the Board of Directors of the Inter Faith Conference; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; and musician Humayun Khan.

For the record, I don’t see a Roman Catholic leader, either. Apparently the Episcopalians have the Christian base covered.

No matter what you think of the exclusion of all clergy from the New York commemoration or the exclusion of evangelical Christians from the Washington event, it seems to me that what we are seeing reveals a great deal about the secularization of our culture and the intentional effort of cultural elites to exclude religion in general and conservative Christianity from the public square.

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  • Bill Goff

    While these exclusions are deplorable, I am not ready to include that they reflect our culture or government.  I watched the dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial today which included a clergyman offering a prayer and benediction.  (I could not find the clergyman’s name or denomination.)  This memorial is under the auspices of the government’s National Park Service which must have assented to the inclusion of a clergyman on the program.  In January 2009, my pastor, Rick Warren (a Southern Baptist) gave a prayer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  From my gleanings from the news, Mayor Bloomberg has received substantial public criticism for his decision to exclude clergy from the 9/11 Ceremony tomorrow.
    At the same time I believe that our culture views conservative evangelicals as being pro life, pro capital punishment, anti-homosexual, anti-science and wedded to the most right wing political positions.  Although this perception is not entirely accurate, it may account for the decision the exclude evangelical clergy from ecumenical public events. – Bill Goff