New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (left) has come under intense criticism for inviting only elected officials, past and present, to the 10th anniversary memorial of the 9/11 attacks but not permitting clergy and prayer (http://www NULL.foxnews NULL.com/politics/2011/08/26/bloomberg-stands-by-decision-to-leave-out-clergy-at-11-ceremony/). Many conservative leaders, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Sen. Rick Santorum, and a NYC Councilman, have urged the mayor to reconsider. Rightly so, many are pointing out that America turned to God in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks—including Congress singing an impromptu “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps—and that faith and prayer should have a place at the 10th anniversary, too.
Prayer at public events and places is, of course, steeped in our American civic history, marking daily occurrences at meetings of Congress and state and local bodies even before the Constitution was written. The Supreme Court upheld this tradition in state legislatures (and by analogy, in Congress) in the case of Marsh v. Chambers.
But as the Supreme Court began to purge the public schools (Engel v. Vitale) and even the football fields of prayer Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe), the ACLU and their ilk continue to push their agenda against public expressions of religion to as many county commissions (http://morallaw NULL.org/PDF/AmicusFMLbrief_Forsyth_County_prayer_5 NULL.26 NULL.10 NULL.pdf), school boards (http://morallaw NULL.org/PDF/Doe_v_IndianRiver_FMLamicus_9 NULL.9 NULL.10 NULL.pdf), and public deliberative bodies as a federal court will allow. Last year, the atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation even sued the President (http://morallaw NULL.org/PDF/FML_Natl_Day_Prayer_Amicus_7_8_10 NULL.pdf) for issuing a National Day of Prayer Proclamation. This assault on public prayer continues to be one of those front-line constitutional controversies plaguing your local town meetings and federal courts alike.
This war on prayer does not always result in the stoppage of prayer; in fact, it often results in the censorship of prayer. The ACLU like to claim that any prayers offered should be “nonsectarian,” if they must be given at all. “Nonsectarian” is code for “No Jesus,” by the way. What results is the sort of generic, nonspecific request of a nonspecific deity that any good secularist could love (or at least tolerate). The local body that was threatened with a lawsuit gets to “keep” their practice of “prayer,” but they must make sure no one calls upon the Name of Jesus.
The Supreme Court considers such “cleansed” and compromised prayers to be mere solemnifying “ceremonial deism,” not a true religious activity, and therefore fit for public consumption.
You can use the name of God, just make sure you use it in vain.
These are the sorts of watered down “prayers” that are becoming the politically-correct norm at public events, particularly (if there must be prayer) in liberal bastions like NYC.
The question in therefore begged: Just what kind of prayer would we see at the 9/11 memorial service if Mayor Bloomberg reversed course? It is hard to imagine, in this day and age, that NYC would invite clergy but would not open up the podium to an assembly line of prayers from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other religious leaders of various stripes and gods.
The second question: Would such a smorgasbord of prayers satisfy Bloomberg’s critics? That is, would an ecumenical array of interfaith prayers to different (and competing) gods placate those who objected to a prayer-free memorial service? I fear it would, for many. Even Catholic League President Bill Donohue, no shrinking violet, asked the mayor (http://www NULL.foxnews NULL.com/politics/2011/08/26/bloomberg-stands-by-decision-to-leave-out-clergy-at-11-ceremony/) only for a “short statement” from a priest, minister, rabbi and imam at the service.
Methinks we doth protest too little! Along these lines, Dr. Michael Youssef published a thought-provoking op-ed on Sept. 1 titled “Why I agree with the mayor of NYC (http://www NULL.onenewsnow NULL.com/Perspectives/Default NULL.aspx?id=1422360).” The Egyptian born pastor thanked Bloomberg for
sparing us the spectacle of bundling all religions together as if they are worshipping one god or as if all these gods are equal. Indeed, Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “Prayer for America” memorial service, held 12 days after the 9/11 attacks, was extremely painful for the faithful Christians who watched. It gave the impression that all gods are equal to the one true God — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Like Israel of old, writes Dr. Youssef, “America is committing the same abomination of syncretism — mixing the God of the Founding Fathers with all those other ‘non-God’ gods.”
America is one nation under God, not gods. As the scriptures make repeatedly and loudly plain, God is a jealous God, not keen on sharing the platform with other deities—”I am the LORD thy God . . . Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
There was a statesman once in New York City who understood which God alone deserved America’s prayers and thanksgiving. On October 3, 1789, when NYC was the nation’s capital, President George Washington, at the request of both houses of Congress, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving (http://lcweb2 NULL.loc NULL.gov/ammem/GW/gw004 NULL.html) “to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations,” it being “the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”
Like Washington, are we prepared to call upon the Lord and Him alone at the 9/11 memorial this Sunday, and forsake the modern, cover-all-bases prayer cacophonies that plague our public podiums of today? If not, then perhaps as Bloomberg has decreed, no prayer may be a better option than prayers for prayer’s sake.
America needs the protection and favor of Almighty God no less today than in 2001 or in 1789. Particularly in remembering awful days like 9/11 we want and sing for God to bless America. But will God bless an America that blesses all gods?