Despite efforts to keep the 9/11 Memorial Service free of religion, invited speakers chose to read prayers and Scripture at the event. President Obama and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani read from the Bible on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City Sunday morning. Former President Bush read a letter written by Abraham Lincoln that mentions God.
Obama chose to read Psalm 46, which begins with, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (NIV).
The president arrived at the memorial site with first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, and former first lady Laura Bush. All four stood together in a moment of silence when they arrived at the memorial.
In the weeks leading up to the memorial service, controversy surrounded New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to not include religious leaders or prayers in the ceremony. On Friday, Bloomberg said that a memorial service with prayers and religious leaders would be like the government forcing religion “down people's throats.”
Regardless of Bloomberg’s decision, prayers and religious speeches were abundant at the ceremony.
Bush, who was president at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, read from a letter written by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to a mother who lost five sons during the Civil War.
Lincoln ended the letter saying, “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York at the time of the attacks, read from Ecclesiastes.
“The perspective that we need, and have needed, to get through the last 10 years, and the years that remain, are best expressed by the words of God as inscribed in the book of Ecclesiastes,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani then read from Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, which begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Giuliani ended by saying, “God bless every soul that we lost. God bless the family members who have to endure that loss, and God guide us to our reunion in Heaven, and God bless the United States of America.”
Obama read all of Psalm 46, which ends with, “He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (NIV).