A weekend of religious-themed observances at Washington National Cathedral marking the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks will include a Buddhist nun and an Imam, but not an evangelical Christian, leading the head of the Southern Baptist Convention to ask President Obama to reconsider attending the event.
“A Call to Compassion” will include an interfaith prayer vigil on Sept. 11. It will feature the dean of the Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington, a rabbi, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.
However, Southern Baptists, representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, were not invited to participate – and neither were leaders from any evangelical Christian organization.
“It’s not surprising,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.”
Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, confirmed that Southern Baptists were not extended an invitation to participate.
“The goal was to have interfaith representation,” he told Fox News Radio. “The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives.”
He said the Washington National Cathedral serves as the “spiritual home for the nation” and as such, he said that “diversity was first and foremost” a factor in the planning.
“We certainly aim to appeal to as many in the country as possible and feel that our events are not any one slice that could ever represent the entire country -- but that we are doing our best commemorate the events as it fits with our mission,” Weinberg said.
On Sunday night the Cathedral will host President Obama as he delivers remarks in a program called, “A Concert of Hope.” At least five faith leaders will deliver prayers but those individuals have not been identified.
Weinberg said the president’s event will be a “secular service,” but said given the setting it will include an interfaith benediction.
Page said President Obama should cancel his appearance at the Cathedral.
“I think it would send a very strong and very positive signal to the left wing extremists in our country that the president ought not show up,” Page said, calling their exclusion “purposeful.”
The White House referred questions about the services to the Cathedral.
“First and foremost, the breadth of the programming aims to honor those who were most affected by the tragedy of 9/11,” Weinberg said. “We also recognize as a Cathedral that this country has been engaged in two wars abroad and many, many service members, nearly six thousand, and of course that would count much more if we counted civilian lives lost.”
“They are also a group that we want to keep in mind and lift up,” he said.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News Radio the lineup was better suited for the United Nations than the United States.
“Three quarters of the American people identify as Christian and nearly a third of them are evangelical Christian,” Perkins said. “And yet, there is not a single evangelical on the program.”
“There’s no doubt that this is clearly politically correct,” Perkins told Fox News Radio. “It is historically inaccurate that in times of need or mourning that Americans pray to the Hindu or Buddhist Gods or the God of Islam. America is overtly a Christian nation that prays to the Judeo-Christian God – and specifically to Jesus Christ.”
Page called political correctness the “elephant in the room.”
“It is very clear that it is that it is not politically correct to include evangelical Christians,” he said.
“Obviously, tolerance is at work here. In a nation whose current God is tolerance, it is absolutely hypocritical that the major group to be excluded and be intolerant of – is evangelical Christians.”
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."