Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tightly choreographed ceremony to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will not include any religious leaders, his office confirmed to the Wall Street Journal, a move that has put some pious politicians and clergy into a tizzy.
"This is America, and to have a memorial service where there's no prayer, this appears to be insanity to me," Rudy Washington, former Deputy Mayor to Rudy Giuliani who organized an interfaith ceremony at Yankee Stadium shorty after the 9/11 attacks, told the Journal. "I feel like America has lost its way."
And City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a pastor at New Life Outreach International, a Bronx church said he was disappointed and shocked by the news and felt that the clergy's exclusion from the ceremony was "wiping out the recognition of the importance that spirituality plays on that day."
The complaints are the latest in a series of criticisms leveled at Bloomberg's plan for the ceremony, which will likely draw an international audience.
Bloomberg announced last month that the ceremony would be led by President Obama, former President George W. Bush, Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Christie, former NY Governor George Pataki, Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Last week, Chris Christie griped that former New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco, who was Governor during the September 11th attacks, wasn't included in the ceremony. Bloomberg then added DiFrancesco to the list of speakers.
Also last week, it was reported that Governor Cuomo was quietly pushing the Bloomberg administration to allow him to give more substantive remarks at the ceremony, i.e. a speech.
The elected officials at the ceremony will only read lines of preselected poetry and Bloomberg has made it clear that no one will give a political speech.
"There are hundreds of important people that have offered to participate over the last nine years," Evelyn Erskine, a mayoral spokeswoman told the Journal in response to religious leaders' outrage, "but the focus remains on the families of the thousands who died on Sept. 11."
During the 2001 "Prayer for America" service at Yankee Stadium, organized by Rudy Washington, leaders representing all of the major religions addressed a large crowd and even larger TV audience.
An interfaith ceremony will be held this September 6 to honor 9/11 first responders, another group that decried their exclusion from the ceremony.
Mr. Washington is considering holding a news conference on September 11th to object to the clergy's exclusion from the ceremony.