The 10th anniversary memorial service of New York’s 9/11 tragedy will not include clergy or prayers, it has been revealed.
The ban has caused upset because church leaders played a vital role in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Former Deputy Mayor of New York Rudy Washington, who was serving in office at the time of the 9/11 attacks, expressed outrage at the exclusion.
Mr Washington said: “This is America, and to have a memorial service where there’s no prayer, this appears to be insanity to me. I feel like America has lost its way”.
City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a pastor at New Life Outreach International, said he was “Utterly disappointed and surprised”.
He told The Wall Street Journal that religious leaders were “one of the pillars that carried us through. They were the spiritual and emotional backbone, and when you have a situation where people are trying to find meaning, where something is bigger than them, when you have a crisis of this level, they often look to the clergy.”
John Long, Director of the Federation of Fire Chaplains for the Mid-Atlantic, expressed concern and said: “You can’t have a memorial service without religion.”
A spokesperson for New York’s City Hall defended the decision, saying that religious leaders had been excluded from previous 9/11 memorials and they wanted this one to be the same.
The spokesperson said: “There are hundreds of important people that have offered to participate over the last nine years, but the focus remains on the families of the thousands who died on September 11”.
Earlier this summer a group of American atheists filed a lawsuit to stop steel beams forming the shape of a cross being displayed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York.
The beams were found standing upright in the shape of a cross amid the rubble of the 9/11 attacks and were seen by many New Yorkers as a beacon of hope for the city following the tragedy.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum is due to open this month on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.