Ban On Clergy-Led Prayer At 9/11 Anniversary Draws Criticism

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Christian conservatives are condemning Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to bar clergy-led prayer at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the terrorist attacks, calling the program an insult. Others wonder whether the mayor is trying to dodge the potentially thorny issue of including a Muslim representative.

The mayor’s office says the annual event focuses on relatives of Sept. 11 victims and has never included clergy invocations. Bloomberg has said it would be impossible to include everyone who would like to participate.

Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, said the program was designed in coordination with 9/11 families and included readings that were “spiritual and personal in nature.” Six moments of silence were planned for personal reflection and prayer. Police and fire chaplains who work with the 9/11 families will attend.

“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,” 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.”

The issue has once again put ground zero and the Sept. 11 remembrance at the center of debate over religion in American public life.

Last year, protests erupted in response to plans for a Muslim community center and mosque near the site. In July, American Atheists, an advocacy group in New Jersey, sued when a cross that had formed from steel beams that had emerged from the rubble was moved to the site of the national September 11 Memorial and Museum. The building is on government property and is partly funded by tax dollars. The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, has vowed to defend the cross placement and is preparing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a New York firefighter.

Not long ago, any New York mayor who left clergy out of a public celebration of this magnitude would pay a major political price within the city. Bloomberg appears not to have suffered such a penalty so far — and Marc Stern, associate general counsel of the American Jewish Committee, said has an idea why. “I think it’s about the place of religion in the culture,” which has grown more secular.

Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center who researches religious liberty, said he worries that Bloomberg may have jettisoned clergy prayer to avoid any controversy about Islam, since he would have to include a Muslim representative. Land and others insist they would welcome a Muslim prayer leader on the program, along with a Catholic priest, a Protestant minister and a rabbi. But with the increasingly vocal activists who condemn Islam as a violent religion, Haynes said, Bloomberg is in a “a no-win situation here.”

Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, an anti-defamation group based in New York, said the Bloomberg administration seems to be arguing that clergy would detract from the event. The Washington-based Family Research Council, a conservative Christian public policy group, has posted a petition demanding Bloomberg reverse his decision. More than 50,000 people had signed as of Friday, the council says. The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., whose policy director argues that freedom of religion applies only to Christians, called the exclusion of prayer an insult to “the faith of Americans and indeed to God himself.”

Land rejected any suggestion that outsiders were trying to cause trouble for New York. He said the event was a national one, commemorating a day when all Americans stood with the city. Fernando Cabrera, a City Council member who is also an evangelical pastor in the Bronx, has called the absence of prayer in the program “a tragic mistake.” The Rev. Thomas Margrave, an Episcopal priest who is a board member of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains, said “it seems extremely curious” that prayer is included in so many public ceremonies, including the presidential inauguration, but not at ground zero, where prayer was so important.

However, there has been little other protest from the city’s religious community. Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan said he had met with Bloomberg about a month ago and they had discussed the ceremony.

“He, too, I think was under some restrictions. I think other people were involved in the planning not just him,” Dolan said in an interview last week with the cable news outlet NY1. “He was very honest and up front. `I think it’s very limited. It may not be the way I want it, but it’s just going to be immediate family and the political people who were in office then and political people now.’ I’m fine with that.”

Dolan said he and other clergy have “stacks of invitations” for prayer services surrounding the anniversary.

Do you agree with the ban? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Jane

    I don’t think Mayor Bloomberg had any other choice.

    As a Catholic may I re-vonfirm,,,, BILL DONOHUE does not speak for the Catholiic Curch,,, he uses it for personal and political motives,,, and the samage he is doing to the image of the church is trouling to me.

    Archishop Dolan is OK with the Decision,,, who is iBill Donohue to raise up yet one more contraversy that he hopes will put HIM instead of the families on center stage.

    Right now,,, and it will continue – All he is doing is carrying the Water for a group of Politically Driven Evangelicals with whom he hopes to sit on a politicl stage this election cycle.

    Bill,, Here’s your hat,,, what’s your hurry,,, go where you are more comfortable,,,, there is nothing about your releases that says “Catholic” in any way.

  • steffi

    Dr Meh I was making a point. Just in case you don’t get it, the point is use whatever means of communication possible. Guess what, people still use telephones too. Please, in the future, think things through before making a statement. Have a nice day

  • Patrick OMalley

    To put things into perspective, about 3000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

    Over 10,000 children have accused priests of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the United States alone, in an act called “soul murder”, since the child never fully recovers, and they never have the same faith in God. The number is likely 3-5 times that number, since people like Archbishop Dolan immediately try to fight and discredit the victims. Just last month, he discredited the victim when a 16 year old girl came forward to accuse a priest of inappropriate contact.

    The Catholic League and their $399,000 a year front man immediately trashed her, even though the priest himself admitted to massaging her (and why, in God’s name, is a priest massaging a girl) and blamed her for wearing very short skirts. Dolan republishes the Catholic League bashing on his blog.

    Two of the biggest, loudest mouths in the Catholic church immediately discredit a poor, little 16 year old girl from the Bronx when she comes forward with the umpti-thousandth case of priest predator attacking child.

    Think that will stop other victims from coming forward? You bet. Great legal strategy. Horrible church.

    Catholic priests, stay away from ground zero on 9/11. We’re trying to forget one enemy. We don’t need to be reminded of another.

  • Dakotahgeo, Pastor/Chaplain

    NYrByChoice commented on Ban On Clergy-Led Prayer At 9/11 Anniversary Draws Criticism: “No such thing as Christian Sharia.”
    DON’T be too sure…. we have the new American christian Taliban (AcT) and the TEA-publicans. That’s close enough for me. We’ve been warned… avoid at all costs!

  • Get Back on Track

    No wonder New York is feeling the wrath of earthquakes and Hurricaines. It is a precursor of things to come if we don’t get our act together and start becoming a moral society, not a society that caves in to every whim of amoral selffish politicians. Judgement day is going to be mighty interesting!
    All our enemies need to do is walk in to take us over since we given up every bit of the skeletal framework of our constitution and don’t have the stomach to fight for what is right.

    • Jason.

      This is what is wrong with america 2 day. worrying too much about what those around us think and not putting our attention where it should be, on God. if we would put God first in our lives, everything else will fall into place. I am deeply saddened that mayor bloomberg feels it necessary to keep clergy led prayer from this special ocasion. I pray that Gods Holy Spirit come down and touch this man’s heart and is with all of those during this 911 anniversary.

    • Mr. Incredible

      Dooooooom and Glooooooooom!!! Faith, not fear, Honeychild!

  • Alexa

    I agree that the commemoration should go on as before. No one is banning religion from the site, they are only limiting the speakers to family members, as they have always done. This is NOT about freedom of religion.

  • susan

    prayers and belief are solace to people who do not know where to go in certain situations…i was married to a person who claimed to be an atheist for many yers, until he became very ill and suddenly started reading and marking passages in the bible..i do not believe the memorial at the world trade center site should bet turned into a circus for any mayor,media person, politcal person or is what it memory of the 3000 or so people that died there, as is the vietnam wall in washington with names on it .i also dont feel they should once again repeat the names of all of those who died,because their names ar on the memorial..this should be for families of those who were killed and a few representatives of the fire department, the police department and other groups who helped..i do not feel this minimizes the memories the families and all of america have in any way..i do not live in nyc, but your mayor should not make this a political feather in his cap…

  • Sue M

    Not only are clergy banned, so are First responders who want to pay their respects to fallen comrades and friends. This mayor is an absolute disgrace..what an arrogant little king NYC is stuck with…People complained about Guiliani when he was mayor, but he was at least respectful to the memory of the fallen. Bloomberg is a narcissistic dictator who has absolutely no social skills or grace to speak of.


    St. Francis Catholic Church on Hilton Head is holding a “Remembrance” of the victims of 9/11. They are charging $20 a ticket. I inquired as to the proceeds. and NO MONEY WILL BE GOING TO ANY 9/11 charity!!! I was told that all the money would go “toward expenses”… This is exploitative and despicable. They are using my father’s death to fill the church coffers. And because they use “God”, they’ll probably get away with it. Their phone number is (843)681-6350. If you think this is wrong, call and ask them why….

  • Rodin

    Ahhhh, up early in time to see if Steffi replied. Nope no response. Dinner with the wifie was good. He treated me very well.

    • Dakotahgeo

      Heyyyyy, Rodin!!! Good to hear re: din din! Nope, stuffi is past history. Back at it again! My first Brazilian Independence Day Holiday! Chao chao!

  • DarthEVader Cheney


    Darth(E)Vader Cheney, you must read Maureen Dowd too.

    September 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm
    Heh heh heh, yes…. I don’talways agree with her but her wit, humor, and cutting edge excite me to no end, literaturely speking. (Is THAT a word? lolol).

    • Rodin

      Literaurely or spEking? Lioteratyrely is fine by me. SpEking I’m not so sure. Gotta watch our p’s and q’s or we’ll be accused of throwing stones while living in glass houses.

      May the Dogs be with you!

      • Rodin

        I just blew it. Should take my own advice.: literatUrely.

      • DarthEVader Cheney exposed

        LOLOL!!! And also with you!!! All the best!!!

  • DarthEVader Cheney

    To Rodin re: ignore Steffi…. Heyyy, Rodin, thanks… good to see you again. CBSNews’ scatterbrained censors are high on popcorn again, and some comments are not going through. Good to see you again… post on (The Rev.!)

    • Rodin

      Same here. Noose has been slow. You ‘Dakotahgeo, Pastor/Chaplain’? I don’t recognize ‘DarthEVader Cheney’ from past posts.

      • DarthEVaderCheney Exposed

        Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! (Secret!!! Secret!!!!) ROFLMBO!

      • Rodin

        SORRY. I won’t tell … again. The style gave you away.

  • Pray in Church

    Great job Bloomberg first time I agree with you in long time.And also reading of names would be nice thing to lose too.Just have a speech about the day do not need to say everyones name year after year.There been many tragedies in this world when does time come for people to mourn at there church or house we do not need this televised it should be private.It has become more of a show then a memorial.

    • pray in private

      Yes ceremony is just becoming a photo-op for some families they should be ashamed.Not all but some. And the reading of the names was good first year but eveyyear is just a bore.

  • Rodin

    Before any clergy or incantations, they have the right to be there!

    Rescue dogs of 9/11: The drama’s unsung heroes

  • Rodin

    “…many people find solace through religion” I have no problem with until they start to impose THEIR means of ‘solace’ on ME.

    “… being good people because that is what we have in us to be.” Wishful thinking but the historical record speaks otherwise. How anyone can study history or follow the news and believe this fantasy is beyond me.


    • Rodin

      Meant for Yandor Thon at the bottom.

  • Rodin

    Someone start the oven. Bloomturd is done.

    • Rodin


      • RODIN


      • Rodin

        @ Rodin ‘Imposter”

        ImpostOr – Wikipedia:
        An ‘impost-O-r’ or ‘impost-E-r’ is a person who pretends to be somebody else.

        Spellcheck sez ‘impost-E-r,” smart@ss. Check it out and go back in your hole.

  • steffi

    Let me get this straight, Bloomberg doesn’t want any clergy prayer but his ok with building the mosque two block from ground zero. What’s wrong with picture. Please fax, e-mail, call the mayor’s office to tell him what you think

    • Rodin

      Re-read the article and DO try to understand plain English. I know you’re limited but the effort might pay off,

    • DarthEVader Cheney

      steffi…sweetheart, let ME get THIS straight!! READ the article! This has nothing to do with a mosque being built, it has nothing to do with a mosque being renovated. It has nothing to do with Mayor Bloomberg’s NON-decision to not have clergy or prayer at the commemoration. It had EVERYTHING to do with a COMMITTEE’s decision NOT to have any prayer or clergy present. Before you come back with inane comments, clean up your grammar, your spelling errors, and your misuse of the English language. Your comments are the work of a third grade dropout and it prevents us from taking you seriously. Understand?

      • Rodin

        Darth(E)Vader Cheney, you must read Maureen Dowd too.

    • ignore Steffi

      Steffi your a idiot

      • steffi

        I am stating the facts. If stating the facts is being an idiot, then I am glad I’m one. You don’t even have the guts to leave your name, so who’s the idiot. You must be one of those liberals with the brown nose if you get my meaning. Look in the mirror before you open your mouth

      • DarthEVader Cheney

        ignore steffi… you make a fine point, but you’re not exactly the top go-to person for correct grammar or spelling either!

        (S)teffi, no … (s)teffi, yes;
        your, no … you’re, yes;
        a, no … an, yes;
        idiot, YES! There can only be one reason why you got this word right!

        25% right … Fail!

      • Rodin

        @ DarthEVader Cheney

        I think it’s “staffi,” as in ‘staff infection,’ or maybe “stuffi” as in “stuff it,” because ‘Stephie’ normally comes from Stephanie, like ‘Sophie’ comes from Sophia. I do think Steffi should be capitalized, since it’s a proper noun. ignore Steffi might just be correcting steffi, in which case the grade point average goes up to 50%. ignore Steffi, however, did not punctualize at the end of the sentence, reducing that average to 40%. Still failing.

        Should you want more steffi-ness, go to “Stuyvesant Alumni Banned From Holding 9/11 Vigil At School” @
        That’s if you really want to throw up!

        “There are those who confuse discourse with vomit.” – Florence King in With Charity Towards None

      • Rodin

        No comma after Steffi, direct address. That brings ignore steffi’s grade down to 12.5%. I’ll still take ignore steffi over steffi anytime. At least the right intention is there.

      • DarthEVader Cheney

        Dang, Rodin! I missed one! Lolol…. 12.5% it is. And yes,steffi DOES have the right idea!

      • Rodin

        @ DarthEVader Cheney

        NO! ‘ignore steffi’ has the right idea.

        Gotta go. Dinner out with wifie.

    • Dr.Meh

      Fax the mayor’s office…FAX?!!!
      How old are you steffi (from the fax generation?).

  • Ellen

    Let the fire and police guys up there instead of any clergy no matter what religion.

    • Rodin



      • BF

        Good without God. Even better with Him.

  • Rodin

    “Six moments of silence were planned for personal reflection and prayer.” That is more than enough for families and others present to meditate or pray as is their custom … PRIVATELY.

    But not to everyone’s satisfaction. The arrogance of piety rears its ugly head!

    Immediately the paranoid hysterics and religious fanatics ‘de rigueur’ rack up the volume and the rancor: the same-old-same-old Bill Donohue and his Catholic League, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (all self-righteous double-space misnomers), the Christian sharia and American Taliban who would impose THEIR religious beliefs on the rest of us, on a civil ceremony organized by the city’s secular administration for the families of the victims of 9/11, where even first responders have been excluded. Those relevant, “police and fire chaplains who work with the 9/11 families will attend.”

    Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis has it exactly right. So does the chronically acerbic, cigar smoking, Jameson swigging Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in a rare display of sanity: `I think it’s very limited. It may not be the way I want it, but it’s just going to be immediate family and the political people who were in office then and political people now.’ I’m fine with that.”

    • NYrByChoice

      Christian Sharia? American Taliban? Your choice of words show a complete lack of understanding of history and what these terms really mean.

      Read and learn history, or we are doomed to let it repeat.

  • Humiliated

    God Bless America! Do you really think that God would bless such a decadent place. With Corporate Greed at a all time high and the lack of jobs, maybe we should pray for a wake up call which is what some think 9-11 was all about. Do you think much of planet earth is pleased with the gross materialism that has raped the rest of the world of resources. Bloomberg heads this list. He is very careless about the people who live in NYC. The small businesses have suffered under his leadership. Poor people are poorer.

    • Rodin

      See the Republican candidate cadre. That’s what’s “decadent” and regressive.



    They should get Chaz Bono to lead the prayer.



    • edward

      I totally agree.By next week even the most sympathetic will be sick of milking this event for coverage and market share on the boob tube.
      As to the religious exclusion, i think it is best to keep the ceremonies secular.
      With all the Evangelical candidates out there, like Perry and Bachmann, I am personally exasperated having “God” invoked in every political speech.

      • Mike Lamort


  • Rhiannon

    Mr. Bloomberg’s decision is misguided (at best) and hurtful.
    Then again, given what is running this city and country , those of us who believe in God or any god are now considered as criminals. Shame on this apostate.

    1. One church was wiped out when 2 WTC collapsed – St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.

    2. This attack and subsequent slaughter was a Jihad attack as well as an act of genocide. Evil incarnate.

    • Rodin

      RELIGION is “evil incarnate”: exclusive, divisive, oppressive, ignorant, bigoted. “Those of us who believe in God or any god (?)” have always been the accusers, persecutors and inquisitioners.

      • NYrByChoice

        No such thing as Christian Sharia

    • Dr. Meh

      I am afraid of you. Yyou sound like a Jihadist with your blind faith.

      • Rodin

        And afraid you should be. Look out for the Christian Sharia!

  • John L

    Fine with me. Religion warped the brains of the 19 hijackers, as religion warps the minds of all followers in all faiths. Religion is a fairy tale. We stop believing in a fat man ni a red suit bringing presents in December and no longer believe in the Tooth Fairy either, yet it is fine to believe in the “higher power” and some being in the clouds will help you if you beg him (most people call it praying). Children are not born religious- adults corrupt them with their religious brainwashing.

    Religion is not needed in any society.

  • Dakotahgeo, Pastor/Chaplain

    I tend to get the giggles as a Christian Pastor/Chaplain when the American Christian “extremists” go off on a wild tangent and “hit bottom” when they feel they’re being persecuted. Yet they have no compunction to do the exact same thing to other non-Christian religions when they feel called “by” God in excoriating others for their beliefs. Nowhere in the US Constitution does it spell out who is and who is not to be given freedom from, OR freedom of religion. ALL religions are free to worship and practice as they choose in the USA. Those “Christians” who are the self-imposed gatekeepers over others are finding that the feeling isn’t so good when the Boot is on their own throats. If Christians (extremists in particular) want to see and experience a return to when Christianity was respected, would well be atuned to a new attitude toward others. As far as AFA, Southern Baptists, and FRC, the most radical of all organizations shouldn’t have to wonder too hard why people do not listen to them any more. They’re merely preaching to their choirs with a megaphone. Noone any longer cares about them.

    • EMC

      That is such an accuracte description to all this wave of sanctity, morality and however those fanatics define Christianity .Their view on religion is restricted to only their own narrow-mindedness and intolerance of anything else.

    • NYGirl

      You call yourself a pastor? I think you mean Muslim extremists you stupid atheist anti-christ.

      • Dakotahgeo, Pastor/Chaplain

        Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I just got around to it this morning. I appreciate your comments. They fit the description of poor, persecuted christians to a T! Thank you for proving me correct. Notice the comment by EMC above yours. “Normal Christian” people just have more respect for all of God’s creations than your type does. Sorry about that! Have a good Wednesday morning. (BTW, I graduated from a good ‘ol Baptist Seminary, Sweetcheeks, lolol. No problem!) You look to be in the minority here.

  • peter

    I’m alright with the various clergy members being excluded.What I would like most is to see Mayor Bloomberg excluded.

    • Rodin

      He’s throwing the party!

  • Kelly Starters

    I iamgine it is mostly Christian’s want to get their paws in everything ,many
    Atheists died at the WTC as well .keep the prayers in your Churches
    and Temples and Mosques. Let’s not make this memorial a prayer service
    we who lived down there and smelled this area burning for many weeks
    deserve better.

    • Remembers vividly

      You aren’t the only one that lived it… That day everyone prayed to a higher being… Chritian, Jewish, etc. Now we want to forget it. Yes, many atheists died, but so did many believers. Everyone should be given the opportunity to remember how they want/need.

      • Rodin


        Keep your faiths out on my face.

      • Rodin

        … and why should “believers” have the run of things?

  • General

    Seems to me that this country is catering to others religions. This country was founded “under God” you don’t like leave. You don’t want to leave then adapt. I am tired of this country giving in to those of other religions. Their countries won’t do the same for us. Enough already.

    • KPMc

      “The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., whose policy director argues that freedom of religion applies only to Christians”

      Still trying to wrap my head around this one. Freedom of religion only applies to Christians? Say What? Maybe civil and basic human rights should only apply to white people.

      And we are listening to these morons? We give them even the slightest bit of credence by mentioning them in the article?

      235 years and you people still don’t get it. Morons!

    • Rodin

      “Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.”
      “‘In God We Trust.’ I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true.”

      “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”

      “The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.”

      THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: The Anasagasti List for Caninist Instruction

  • ak66

    A thousand and first proof from Bloomberg what kind of a-hole he is.

    • Rodin

      Just like you.

      I take that back. YOU win!

  • Yandor Thon

    What abou a large percentage of the population which hates religion, not just christianity, or islam, but pretty much all organized religions.

    It is a sad thing that occurred, and many people find solace through religion, so these people should be allowed to grieve in any way they want, wherever they want, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

    We as a global community need to move beyond these religions and accept the new era of being good people because that is what we have in us to be.

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