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A Sadly Secularized 9/11

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York may think himself high-minded and practical. But he has acquiesced to some of the most unfortunate and destructive forces in our country.

As I write this, nobody has any idea, really, how the ten year anniversary of “9-11” will transpire. Hopefully the day will come, and go, without any civil unrest or – God forbid – terrorism.

Hopefully Americans will remember, and reflect. No doubt millions of us will pray, both within houses of worship and privately within our own minds.

But this we do know: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it clear that clergy have been forbidden from participating in the city’s official 9-11 commemorative ceremony. The city that was ten years ago and is still today regarded as the epicenter of a huge American tragedy, will commemorate the event with a purely secular, irreligious ceremony, devoid of any official representations of any particular religious traditions.

From a historical standpoint, a secularized commemoration would seem to miss some of the essence of what happened on September 11, 2001 and in the days and weeks that followed. It is, after all, a matter of record that many houses of worship provided safe harbor to displaced victims of the tragedy, and that clergy men and women rushed to provide counsel and sustenance.

Bloomberg’s ban also seems to ignore the reality that the first certified fatality in the 9-11 disaster was, in fact, a clergyman. After learning of the attacks, Father Mychal Judge, a Catholic Priest and beloved Chaplain to the Fire Department of New York rushed to the scene to meet then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

At Mayor Giuliani’s request, Father Mychal began praying aloud for the city and the victims. At the moment that he was struck in the head with debris and killed, eyewitnesses noted that Father Mychal had cried out repeatedly "Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!"

But that was ten years ago. Today there’s a new Mayor in town, and he has taken a decidedly different approach. And Mayor Bloomberg’s clergy ban is unfortunate, for at least a few different reasons.

For one, Bloomberg’s ban exemplifies a flawed conceptualization of “tolerance,” and “diversity.” While his motivations have not been made clear, presumably Mayor Bloomberg’s ban is intended to protect certain religious groups that might not participate in the ceremony, from being “infringed upon” by those other religious groups that might otherwise be represented by clergy at the event. It is a logic that says “for the sake of diversity of religious traditions, we won’t acknowledge any religious traditions at all.”

Faulty as this view is, it is nonetheless nearly impossible to get most Liberal Americans to think any differently. Not long ago Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was the Attorney General of Arizona and banned all “holiday decorations” – Christmas ornaments, menorah candles, and so forth – from her offices, for the very same “tolerant” reasons.

Bloomberg’s ban also strikes a blow at human freedom. Whereas in the American tradition one has a God-given right to speak their mind and to express themselves, and government’s role is to safeguard that right, in the contemporary Liberal mindset such freedoms are problems to be managed and mitigated by government. “America is a far more diverse and pluralistic country today than it was at the time the U.S. Constitution was written,” Liberals will remind us. “What was intended by the Founders of our country does not, and cannot apply today.”

In the end, Bloomberg’s ban is painfully intolerant and assumes the worst about his country and the city he serves. It says that Americans can’t handle their freedom appropriately, and must have less of it.

It may also say something painful about the Islamic world, and a level of intolerance there. Might Mayor Bloomberg have mandated his ban so as to appease those involved in some of his personal business ventures in the Middle East? If so, why would people in the Middle East object to American clergy praying publicly?

The ten year anniversary of 9-11 will hopefully be meaningful and peaceable. But the intolerance entailed in such flawed ideas of “diversity” will remain – and should be reversed.

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