• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Exclusion of Prayer at 9/11 Service Ignores Role of Religion in America

    This weekend will be filled with somber memorial services and poignant tributes as the nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The annual memorial service in New York City will have a decidedly non-religious tone, a move that has drawn the ire of many faith leaders. Even former Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the exclusion of clergy-led prayer at the service.

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is defending the decision to exclude formal participation by religious leaders at Ground Zero this Sunday, arguing that there are simply too many important faith traditions to provide an adequate representation of each in the service. As former New York City Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington notes, however, the city held a very successful interfaith “Prayer for America” event in Yankee Stadium just a few days after September 11 that acknowledged the important role faith plays in providing solace and hope to victims’ families.

    Critics of the decision point out the constitutionality of allowing prayer at a public memorial and suggest that exclusion of it disregards the place of religion in American history and tradition. Some religious leaders also argue that excluding religious elements from the service ignores the profound role the faith community played in the aftermath of September 11, providing not only spiritual and emotional comfort to first responders and victims’ families, but also physical assistance in relief and rescue efforts.

    Mayor Bloomberg’s decision not to include religious elements in the memorial service is a reversal from his effective defense of the World Trade Center cross, which was included in a permanent display at the city’s 9/11 Museum and Memorial a few weeks ago. In that instance, Mayor Bloomberg noted that since the religious symbol “clearly influenced people” and “gave them strength,” it should be included in the nation’s remembrance of September 11.

    Prayer and religious observance hold a prominent place in American history and culture. As the nation commemorates the tragedy of September 11, we should remember—not exclude or dismiss—the important role religious faith played in providing comfort and hope that day and the role it continues to play in helping maintain a healthy civil society. Integral to the post–9/11 task of keeping the United States a safe, free, and prosperous society is acknowledging the importance of religion in society and the protection of religious liberty to uphold many other freedoms unique to America.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    38 Responses to Exclusion of Prayer at 9/11 Service Ignores Role of Religion in America

    1. DKeith says:

      you idiots… that means they win… would we have prayed before 9/11… YES…. and this country needs prayer now more than ever…

    2. deb silvia says:

      no amt of $$ will buy another term, mayor… goodby

    3. Chris Ortiz says:

      How in the hell did they think we healed as a nation!!!! It was the faith we had to for each other and prayers to our god!!

    4. Misho says:

      Praying in public isn't even Christian in the first place. Christ himself said to go into your closet and pray secretly. Why is it Religious Americans always want to go around forcing others to listen to them pray? You want to pray? That is great. Get together all night before and pray. Or else bow your head during a speech (not our own) and pray all you want… secretly like Christ wanted you too. God is the one who puts you onto a hill to shine (if in fact your life truly does shine), not you.

      By the way. The best memorial for the 9/11 attacks and its victims would be a mosque on the sight. It will remind people forever who did this too us, how full of arrogance and hate towards others, lust for world domination, and the oppression and death of others they are.

      • ocm says:

        they build mosque to show there victorys. if there is no mosque then they havent won nothing but a hard time down the road. christians were not the ones who would invaid countrys and say convert or die. those who did were aloud to live the ones who didnt were beheaded.this all happen before the crusades of the middle ages. we dont force our religious belives on others. muslems and atheist do. and as long this country is free then yall should act like it and stop trying to destroy and replace our tradtions that made this country great and that has allowed to still have the freedoms that we have left.

    5. mehbeer says:

      Bloomberg was absolutely right to not include a formal, clergy-led prayer at this event. This event will have several moments of silence (which is a great opportunity for the religious to bow their heads in prayer), and the families will be sharing remembrances that may or may not be spiritual in nature. This event is for families of people who were lost on 9/11. This is not a religious revival. This is not an event to appease christians and the religious right. This is not a chance for proselytizing. Keeping the government endorsement of religious views out of the memorial service does not in any way, shape, or form diminish religious freedom.

      In fact, it promotes religious freedom. Here's how: If any clergy walked up to the podium to offer prayer, what type of faith would be represented? I can tell you with 100% certainty that the faith represented would be christian. Also, the faith represented may or may not be catholic christian, baptist christian, episcopalian christian, or whatever other narrow brand of christianity you can think of. Do you think that all of the people who died in the attacks can be represented by one sectarian prayer? Do you think their grieving families would be represented by one clergy member of one church? What about the families who are Jewish? Muslim? Atheist? Pagan? Buddhist? About half the people who died on 9/11 were non-christian. Yet people like Bill Donohue would insist that a christian prayer be included in the event and would, no doubt, be satisfied with a priest of his choosing to be the only one leading the prayer.

      No one brand of faith can represent the people who died and those who mourn. So you can either have prayer after prayer after prayer to represent everyone, or you can have none. With 6 moments of silence, and other person-specific remembrances in which some, without a doubt, will be spiritual in nature, there will be plenty of religious representation. Representation in this way does much, much more to promote religious freedom than a government sponsored prayer from clergy of whichever politicians choosing.

      I would propose these questions to the religious who wish to have a clergy-led prayer at this public service: Is your god powerless to hear prayers during a moment of silence (or by any random person at any time of the day)? Is your god so insignificant that he/she/it needs government sponsored prayer? Is your god so petty and cruel that he/she/it will refuse to bestow blessings on those who ask for it unless they convince our leaders to sponsor their prayers? Are churches being shut down because Bloomberg is not specifically sponsoring religion?

      This is a very religious nation. We do not need the government to endorse our religions because we find them and practice them on our own with plenty of freedom to do just so. The religious right has made an awful stink where there doesn't need to be one. If there isn't some holy man on the stage at this event invoking a deity it is no big deal. If you absolutely need that type of thing to reach your god, try going to one of the many church-sponsored events going on this weekend.

      Also remember that just because you found comfort in some religion, doesn't mean everyone else did. 10 years ago I was able to find comfort in friends, family, and knowledge of the freedoms I have. The government is in no way required to provide you with religious comfort. Why would you want them to? When government gets involved with something as personal as religion, religious freedom will diminish. Anyone who holds religious beliefs should be thankful that Mayor Bloomberg is not treading on our 1st Amendment freedoms.

    6. mawzaroo1 says:

      No Prayer? Ok so lets have anyone that wants to sing as loudly as they can "God Bless America".

    7. So sad. EVERYONE knew they needed His help at that time.

    8. keith weatherly says:


    9. Terry says:

      This is America?

    10. Bobbie says:

      maybe we could also consider that the greatest man who ever walked the earth, Jesus Christ, doesn't preach or follow any religion. And God Himself promotes no religion. So unless the words of a prayer are intentionally intimidating to humanity, there is absolutely no reason not to commemorate 9-11 in English, prayer and in public.

      Tolerance for this shouldn't have to be asked for?! But since America has been taken over by the overly sensitive CRY BABIES, build tolerance by following through! No religion mentioned. That's enough!

      Let's not show America to be led by cowards and Americans to be weak and outrageously overly sensitive to the point of intolerance of the most peaceful man on earth, Mr. Bloomberg!!! Sure says a lot about personal weakness! SCARY! WOW! Unreal! GET EM' OUT! Ick! people offended by Jesus Christ!! The most weakest thing I've ever heard!!! more people of the world are in tune with Jesus Christ then those indoctrinated to hate Him!

    11. Gregg Weber says:

      There are too many religious beliefs just as there are too many news agencies. One pool clergyman chosen by lot. Solved.
      As it now stands the only religious belief that will be allowed is Atheism (and maybe Islam?).

    12. Andrea says:

      Everyone there should just start singing 'God Bless America', starting with one brave soul. Then maybe the Lord's prayer. What are they going to do? Arrest hundreds of Christians for remembering their Christian heritage? There will be hell & high water to pay if they would do that.

    13. paulydel says:

      I hope the people of NewYork vote this moron out of office. I hope you willd o like me and call or e-mail Mr. Bloomers and let him know your feelings.

    14. Nicole Kasper says:

      So inappropriate to exclude religion when that was the basis for the attack on the very same location. Additionally, Bloomberg is complicating the situation by implying ALL religions need to be represented when, in fact, Chistianity covers the majority. One Christian will do, Mayor Bloomberg!

    15. Michael says:

      Americans should hang their head in shame … this country's citizens deserve to be enslaved by those to whom we have given unbridled power. Too many good people died creating this country and in protecting it for their memories to continue to be tarnished by the likes of the government representatives who have usurped their authority. May the United States rest in peace. Alas, it is dead.

    16. One of may reasons why Michael R. Bloomberg is living proof that billionaires can be complete imbeciles.

    17. GOD is the only thing that helped most people even get through this horrific event. I remember EVERYONE i know praying to GOD that day and afterward. We need to continue to pray. Every day….

    18. Barry Kraemer says:

      The Islamist want our country to forsake our Lord and God Jesus Christ ….. This Sunday Obama and Bloomberg will symbolically give them their victory ….. By taking prayer to God out of the memorial … allows the Islamic Terorist to think .. Yes, We Can

    19. CEC says:

      Another reason our glorious country is being led to Hell in a handbasket.

    20. MK Simpson says:

      I challenge all Catholics present to bring their rosaries and pray them quietly while the politicians are blowing their hot air.

    21. Eva says:

      That is just SAD…how soon we forget …who we should and do turn to in times of Tradegy….

    22. mark says:

      I think that all who attend should say the Lords Prayer out loud and dispite the Athiest' Mayor's wishes.

    23. Charlie says:

      It is a free country we live in, but not free of believers. Sounds like Russia under Stalin. First we marginalize people of faith and then start controling them.

    24. God Fearing says:

      For every politician that attends this memorial and does not accept prayer, may God, Not Allah, (the reason for this horrific terrorist attack), have great mercy on their souls.

      As gas as the fire fighters, etc. not being invited… They are the ones who came and worked, risking their lives, on 911. NOT the politicians!

    25. Judyt says:

      It sounds like the people in power in this country have become dictators, How dare anyone try to stop our right to gather and pray for our lost loved ones, friends, family, co workers. If the Mayor didn't want religious leaders and the people at Ground Zero than give them a place to gather. I can"t think of anything more disrespectful than what he has done. People we need to really start standing together for our rights. God is everywhere and listens to everyone so it doesn't matter where we pray or gather.

    26. M. Heath says:

      This is just one example of how anti-christian liberals are determined to take away our religous freedom by rejecting prayer and God. They will come up with all kinds of reasons for why they are doing it.

      In the end, God says that on judgement day every person will be held accountable for the deeds they have done. Let them be warned.

    27. If I were attending, they could not stop me from openly praying out loud ! In a matter of seconds there would be everyone joining by the muitudes to pray for our friends, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. I hope that those attending will rise up in PRAYER and stand up for their FAITH!

    28. Nancy Carle says:

      Mayor Bloomberg needs to be dismissed!!! People shouldn't even be in leadership in this country if they cannot stand behind the Christian principles that founded it!

    29. Thaven143 says:

      When the tragedy struck there were millions praying! Thousands on scene who were comforted by it, as well as millions watching who prayed to comfort those there in the turmoil, as well as themselves. I know I did and I was clear across the country. Look at how our family structure, society, and children have become since we removed prayer in our schools. The Pledge of Allegiance was changed to include GOD then HE too was removed from it later. Classes no longer begin with that either….so I'm told. Maybe….if there was enough prayers….we could change this decision and the Memorial Service would begin with an opening prayer. Through God all things are possible.

    30. Stirling says:

      So Prayer is Ok when Bush was president at 9/11, but is now not when Obama is president.. It's so clear the anti-religion bias comming from the liberals when they have control of the white house. "Separation of Church and State" has always been a joke excuse, and only applies to keeping government from creating a national religion, it DOES NOT limit states from religious freedom to pray or assemble as they wish.. Negative rights on the government was by design, and not meant to be circumvented by congress or the administration for their own purposes.

    31. AMERICAN says:

      Prayer will be EXCLUDED from Ground Zero this weekend for the 9/11 memorial service! Prayer & religious observance are an important part of American culture — especially in a time such as this!

      We have always had a prayer lets not stop now, because of a few individuals. I hope everyone stands and sings GOB BLESS AMERICA at the cermony.

      We need prayer.

    32. No big deal. Or big deal????

    33. Raul M. de Guzman says:

      THANK GOD, Mr. Obama mentioned GOD in a Psalm today in the 9/11 1Oth Year Commemoration on TV.

    34. Bobbie says:

      to dis the firefighters, police force, first responders shows true arrogance!

      No one has to mention a religion when saying words to the human Creator, who promotes no religion! No one has to mention a religion when speaking of the most peaceful man, whom Himself never preached a religion, Jesus Christ! Mr. Bloomberg is a coward, protective of a violent religion of inner weakness!

    35. Michael A. Frick says:

      Bloomberg's decision is a good one. Here's to adherence to the first amendment (by inviting representatives of one religious denomination the city would oblige itself to welcome representatives of all religions)! Shame on The Heritage Foundation for trying to whip up frenzy among religionists.

      Isn't it true that there exists in the US true freedom of religion? People can commemorate tragedy in whatever religious manner they like- even in public space. They shouldn't expect, though, the endorsement of the state- a categorically secular entity.

    36. Jacquelyn Hansen says:

      Lord have mercy on us when we allow these ignorant politicians take prayer away from such a sad day in history.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.