Bloomberg Stands By Decision to Leave Out Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will not reconsider his decision to exclude clergy from the ceremony marking 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, a spokesman said Friday.

The statement comes despite increased pressure from religious and conservative leaders who say that even though the mayor has not allowed clergy at other services, he should make an exception this time.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Americans "turned to God for solace" after the 2001 attacks, and clergy were intimately involved in helping the nation heal.

"Unfortunately, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would have us look the other way," Perkins said in a statement. "At a Ground Zero commemoration for the families of victims, Mayor Bloomberg is allowing the presence of politicians and presidents, but no pastors or prayer. The mayor of course will be there, but politicians weren't then -- and are not now -- nearly enough."

Perkins is gathering signatures for a petition in opposition to the decision.

City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is a pastor in the Bronx, has also launched a petition on his website urging Bloomberg to "allow prayer to be included in the 9/11 ceremony."

But Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna told the mayor is not reconsidering. LaVorgna noted none of the other nine services included clergy. Bloomberg's office has argued the service should stay focused on the families of the victims.

"There's an awful lot of people who would like to participate and you just can't do that ... so the argument here is elected officials and those who were there at the time," Bloomberg said in a radio interview late last month.

The decision even prompted a response from the GOP presidential field.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the most religiously conservative candidates in the race, issued a statement calling the exclusion of clergy "disconcerting."

"I urge Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his unfortunate decision. It is important to allow clergy to attend and take part in the memorial intended to bind the wounds of a still healing nation," Santorum said.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue also urged the mayor to reverse course and allow a "short statement" from a priest, minister, rabbi and imam at the service.