US

Weather smites cathedral after controversial invite

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

A higher power has trumped the controversial exclusion of evangelicals from the 9/11 vigil at the Washington National Cathedral.

The vigil was moved from the cathedral after a gust of wind toppled a tall crane on Wednesday. The crane was treating damage from the August 23 earthquake.

“I’m not going to [say it was Karma], because the Apostle Paul reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways,” said Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The convention, based in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s largest group of evangelical congregations. (RELATED: Evangelicals excluded from Washington National Cathedral’s 9/11 commemoration)

“There are some who would say ‘I’m just sayin’…’ but I’m not,” Land added.

“We are not speculating on why the crane fell,” said cathedral spokesman Ari Geller.

When asked if the guest list would now be expanded to include mainstream clerics, Geller hung up the phone on TheDC.

The vigil, three concerts and a “Forum on Compassion” lecture about shared beliefs among Islam and Christianity, have been relocated to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a synagogue.

The vigil is controversial because evangelicals protested their exclusion at the event, which showcased clerics from a series of smaller U.S. religious movements.

Among the invitees were two Episcopal bishops, a rabbi, a Tibetan monk, a Buddhist nun, a Buddhist lama, a Hindu priest and a controversial Muslim imam from a mosques whose former leader was charged with a terror offense shortly after 9/11. The vigil also featured an Afghan musician, Humayun Khan.

Khan’s work has been featured in the 1996 film, “The Kama Sutra,” according to Khan’s production company.

This emphasis on religious diversity resulted in the exclusion of representatives from mainstream religious groups, including evangelicals and Catholics.

Roughly 35 percent of American believers say they are evangelicals. Roughly 25 percent say they are Catholics.

The clerics invited to the cathedral represented roughly 5 percent of American believers, according to the CIA Factbook.

Richard Weinberg, the cathedral’s director of communications, told Fox that “diversity was first and foremost” in the event’s planning considerations. “We certainly aim to appeal to as many in the country as possible,” Weinberg said.

“I think they meant ‘We’re going to have the elite represented by the Episcopals and we going to have tiniest minorities we can find represented by the others, and we’re going to ignore the Catholics and evangelicals because we can,’” responded Land.

The discrimination against Catholics and evangelicals is routine among the elite, he added. “It is political correctness.”

But he’s not saying the crane accident is a subtle correction by the Divine. “We cannot fathom God’s ways,” Land said. “I’m not going to attribute such an accident to God … that’s above my pay grade.”

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