Nonbelievers excluded from interfaith service, despite humanist community victims in Monday’s bombing
Washington, DC— The Secular Coalition for America is disappointed and saddened that the nontheist community was excluded from the Interfaith Service taking place in the wake of Monday's marathon bombing—despite that at least two of the victims of the bombing were part of the nontheist community.
Celeste Corcoran of Lowell, Massachusetts, who lost both her legs at the knees in one of the bomb blasts, and her 18 year-old daughter, Sydney, who suffered severe injuries as a result of being hit by shrapnel, were part of the greater-Boston humanist community.
The Interfaith event, called “Healing Our City” is taking place at Cathedral of the Holy Cross and will be attended by President Obama and representatives from the Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
“The tragic events on Monday affected people of many different faiths and none,” said Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “The organizers said they want to ‘heal the city’ and to do that, we need to come together as a community in these times of need despite our differing beliefs.”
The nontheist community in Boston has been working hard to help those affected, including raising nearly $310,000 to assist victims. WeAreAtheism.com, the Boston Atheists, the Humanist Community at Harvard, and the Secular Coalition for Massachusetts have raised $26,856 to assist victims at the time of writing. The Humanist Community at Harvard played a lead role in raising nearly $281,837 for a fund established to help Celeste and Sydney.
“The very purpose of these types of programs are put on is to comfort the victims, their families and the community at large,” Rogers said. “To exclude the very community that at least some of the victims were a part of not only alienates the victims themselves, but also Boston’s vibrant nontheistic community and the nearly 20 percent of Americans who choose not to identify with a religion. We are grieving too.”
The Secular Coalition – in conjunction with the Secular Coalition for Massachusetts and Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University and Vice President of the Harvard Chaplains – work worked diligently to secure the inclusion of a representative from the nontheist community. For several days, the Coalition contacted representatives of all aspects of the planning and coordination of the event, including White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Office of Community Affairs in the Governor’s office, the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Office of the Mayor and the Boston City Council.
Epstein said the exclusion of nontheists at an event meant to focus on healing and community togetherness, is a blow to the community as a whole.
“As a chaplain, I can tell you that members of our community are grieving right now,” Epstein said. “And as an atheist and humanist, I can tell you that this type of exclusion makes their pain even worse.”
Epstein describes said the nontheist community in Boston is thriving with attendance at events numbering in the thousands yearly. The Harvard Humanists and the Boston Coalition of Reason, are opening a nearly 3000-square foot storefront Humanist Community Center in the heart of Harvard Square.
The Secular Coalition for America is a nonprofit advocacy group, representing 11 nontheistic groups, including the American Humanist Association.