FNC Highlights Bloomberg Decision to Exclude Clergy from 9/11 Ceremony

Friday's The O'Reilly Factor on FNC gave attention to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to exclude all clergy from taking part in the upcoming commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. Substitute host Juan Williams introduced the segment.

Williams: "In the Impact segment tonight, on September 11, Americans will memorialize the radical Islamist terrorist attacks 10 years ago. But here in New York City, religious speakers are not welcome. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supported the building of the Ground Zero mosque, there just isn't room."

After a clip of Mayor Bloomberg, Williams introduced his guests and began by questioning the mayor's rationale: "Now, this is the No Spin Zone, so let me just say I don't believe a word that Mayor Bloomberg just said. We don't have space for people to show up? Come on, be for real. All right, so, Dr. Butler, why do you think that this mayor is saying no to religious leaders at a ceremony where you would, I mean, why not have people there who express God's presence in a moment of grief, a memorial? Why?"

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Friday, August 26, The O'Reilly Factor on FNC:

JUAN WILLIAMS: In the "Impact" segment tonight, on September 11, Americans will memorialize the radical Islamist terrorist attacks 10 years ago. But here in New York City, religious speakers are not welcome. According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
who supported the building of the Ground Zero mosque, there just isn't room.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Everybody would like to participate, and the bottom line is everybody cannot participate. There isn't room. There isn't time. And in some cases, it's just not appropriate.

WILLIAMS: Joining us now to react from Philadelphia, Dr. Anthea Butler, a religious studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and here in New York, Father Edward Beck, host of the Sunday Mass on the ABC Family Channel. Now, this is the No Spin Zone, so let me just say I don't believe a word that Mayor Bloomberg just said. We don't have space for people to show up? Come on, be for real. All right, so, Dr. Butler, why do you think that this mayor is saying no to religious leaders at a ceremony where you would, I mean, why not have people there who express God's presence in a moment of grief, a memorial? Why?

DR. ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Juan, I think he's doing it because he thinks that he doesn't want to set a precedent. That is they've never had someone do that before. Now, having said that, I think a tenth anniversary is the absolute appropriate time to have people of different faith traditions there to help memorialize those who have gone on. And it just seems to me a little callous to say that there can't be any clergy because there isn't any time. There's time for everything else. Why isn't there time for something, some symbolic gesture, something inner faith, something that would comfort the people who had loved ones that they lost in the towers on 9/11?

WILLIAMS: Well, I agree. I agree. So, Father Beck, what's your take on this? What's the real reason behind the mayor's action?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, ABC FAMILY CHANNEL: Well, firstly, Juan, there was certainly room and time in the months following 9/11 for clergy persons to be at triage centers, to be at relief centers helping and ministering to those who were lost and family members looking for them. So that's the first thing. Also, the first recorded victim of this tragedy was a Catholic priest, Father Michael Judge. Let's not forget that, either. I think that we have a mayor here, too, who champions the mosque being built next to Ground Zero, saying it's all about religious expression, that people should be able to express themselves religiously and freely. Yet, he's not permitting it here. It seems to me a contradiction. How can you say one and not to the other?

WILLIAMS: Okay, okay, it sounds like the two of you are on the same wavelength. But let me just turn the tables here and say, well, maybe the mayor is saying, "You know what, you religious leaders, whenever you get involved, you have a divisive influence on the whole process." Rather than allowing people to focus on what happened, religion comes in and everybody says, "You know what, why should the Muslim community be here? They were involved. There were radical Muslims who were involved in this attack." Maybe he doesn't want people who were involved in building the mosque to be invited or been told no, we'd rather have different representatives from your religious faith at this ceremony.

BECK: You cannot deny that religion is an undertone and overtone of 9/11. These are religious fanatics who perpetrated this heinous act, and they wanted to silence all other religious and cultural voices. That was their intent. So aren't they, in fact, winning if you are now silencing religious and cultural voices at a commemoration?

WILLIAMS: Right, what about being divisive? Maybe that's the mayor's point.

BECK: Why can't it be uniting? Why can't you have religious leaders from all-

WILLIAMS: Are you saying: Let's just keep religion out of it? Is that his argument?

BECK: Do you remember Yankee Stadium two weeks later? The Prayer for America? All those religious people gathered.

WILLIAMS: Including Muslims.

BECK: Of course, including Muslims.

WILLIAMS: All right, Dr. Butler, what do you say?

BUTLER: I think that I agree with Father Beck here. I have to say that he's making more out of this than it should be. I mean, you know, for shame, Mayor Bloomberg, really. Because it's the one moment where you could show that religion can do something positive. And in the weeks after 9/11, when you had the thing at Yankee Stadium, you had all these memorials set up to people who were missing in the Towers. I just don't understand why he wants to make this more political than it has to be. Because it has now become a political thing that he has not invited any clergy members.

WILLIAMS: But wait a second, Dr. Butler. It's become political because of the arguments not only over the mosque near Ground Zero, but, you know, people say, "I don't want a mosque built out in Tennessee." You know, people are worried. That's what I'm saying.

BUTLER: Yes, yes, they absolutely are worried.

WILLIAMS: Maybe he's saying there is too much religion.

BUTLER: Yes, absolutely are worried, but this is a moment where he could change that tune. He could change the tenor of that conversation. And he is not taking the opportunity to do so.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Butler, Father Beck, thank you both for coming in.