(Photo: Reuters / Chip East)
Over 55,000 conservatives, upset with the decision to exclude clergy and prayer at New York City’s 9/11 commemoration service, signed a petition urging Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reconsider his decision.
The petition, created by the Family Research Council, expresses the frustrations of many who believe prayer should be a part of the 9/11 ceremonies.
"Your plan to exclude pastors and prayer from the Ground Zero commemoration is not only offensive to the families of victims, but strangely overlooks the role that faith played in bringing healing to countless lives," the petition notes.
It also criticizes Bloomberg for inviting politicians rather than first responders such as the city's police and firefighters to the ceremony.
"This nation needs prayer more than politics. Please, Mr. Mayor, allow clergy and prayer at this ceremony," the letter concludes.
Tony Perkins, president of FRC and principle organizer of the petition, says Bloomberg prides himself as a secularist and describes the decision to exclude religious leaders as "a deliberate defiance and insult to people of faith across America."
FRC's vice president of communications, J. P. Duffy, said the petition was launched a week ago and will be available for additional signatures until next Thursday. At that time, he says FRC will combine its petition with that of NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx).
As of noon Friday, 55,932 people have signed the petition.
City officials have justified their decision to exclude religious leaders and prayer by citing the fact that previous anniversary memorials did not include prayer, and the city wished to continue in that tradition for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Many are still sounding off about the inequity of the situation.
"It is interesting to contrast the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers with the day of the attack," Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said.
"Chaplains and religious leaders were welcomed, and some were martyred, as they sought to minister their faith to the victims of the attack. On that day, political correctness didn't matter. It was overwhelmed by the crushing reality of the tragedy of 9/11, and people turned, as they always do, to solace from the realm of the spiritual."
Indeed, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani held a "Prayer for America" memorial service 12 days after New York's Twin Towers were attacked. U.S. House and Senate chaplains also held prayer services in Washington, D.C., where the Pentagon was also attacked.
Then President George W. Bush dubbed subsequent anniversaries of the 9/11 tragedy to be a national day of "prayer and remembrance."
However, those who were responsible for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of 9/11 survivors are now being excluded, Land noted.
"Mayor Bloomberg's decision demonstrates the mindless secularist prejudice of the political establishment on our nation's Eastern Seaboard," Land stated.
Florida Pastor Joel C. Hunter also told The Christian Post in a prior interview that a 9/11 ceremony without church leaders or prayer paints an inaccurate picture of America.
"It's going to be exclusionary, secularist only, and we are one of the most religious countries in the world. So, the bottom line is, this is not how we were founded. This is not who we are," Hunter said.
Cabrera, a pastor at New Life Outreach International Church, also has a petition on Change.org. His web petition has 531 signatures as of noon Friday.
The two groups will likely present the signatures to the mayor's office at a New York press conference. The details have not yet been finalized.