God and 9/11
Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe in a wall of separation between church and state. But I also recognize that the wall is a slightly porous one. Otherwise Rick Warren couldn't have given the invocation at President Obama's inauguration. The presence of clergy at public events is hard to square with the logic of the 1st Amendment, but traditionally it's been tolerated as a form of "ceremonial deism."
That's why I find myself uncomfortably in the company of the right-wing Family Research Council in believing that members of the clergy should have been invited to participate in New York City's 9/11 memorial observance.
My principal reason is that the controversy over their exclusion is unseemly. But I also think that a clergy member offering a generic prayer in a public setting falls short of an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Ironically, such prayers don't cross the line because they have assumed a secular quality, something that probably doesn't please some of the advocates of a clerical presence at the memorial.
Photo credit: Los Angeles Times