Atheists shocked at exclusion from bombing memorial service

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 18, 2013 16:56 EDT
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A woman in a Boston Marathon runners jacket at a makeshift memorial blocks from the finish line, April 17, 2013 (AFP, Stan Honda)
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The Harvard Humanist Community was shocked Thursday when their members were, in the carefully-chosen words of New York Times best-selling author Greg M. Epstein, “blown off” and excluded from an inter-faith memorial ceremony for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

“We have friends and family who are in the hospital in critical condition, who nearly died,” he told Raw Story. “It wouldn’t have been so difficult for those who organized the vigil today to make some kind of nod to us, and that’s all we would have wanted.”

The Harvard humanist chaplain and author of “Good Without God” explained that the exclusion of non-religious Bostonians was particularly shocking because someone dear to the Harvard Humanist Community was gravely wounded in the bombings.

Celeste Corcoran, who was caught in the blast with her daughter and subsequently lost both of her legs to amputation, was a volunteer for the Harvard Humanist Community, Epstein said. She was also something of an “aunt” to Sarah Chandonnet, the group’s outreach and development manager and “second senior-most member,” he added.

President Barack Obama personally addressed attendees at the service, which was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. He was joined by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

“We gave the White House an opportunity to exert a little more influence to help include us, and I’m disappointed that didn’t happen,” Epstein added. “We spoke to high ranking members of the governor’s staff multiple times — people we know for a fact were involved in organizing the vigil — in fact we called them every hour on the hour. And when I say we, I don’t mean me: I mean our lobbying office, the Secular Coalition for America.”

“The point of today was inclusion,” Epstein lamented. “All they had to do was say one word, or allow one official guest, and they didn’t. I can’t speak to their motivation. I hope that it was a matter of ignorance.”

Photo: AFP.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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