By Mathew Goldstein
The memorial service for the victims of the Boston marathon bombings began on April 18 at 11:00 AM ET in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and clergy representing different religious denominations across the city took to the podium. President Barack Obama offered the final reflection of the service and Cardinal Sean O'Malley concluded with a closing blessing. The memorial was broadcast nationally on television, the radio, and the Internet. The published "interfaith" program features the seal of the state of Massachusetts. The state sponsored service was mostly conducted by and for theists, with most speakers making obligatory references to their God. A notable exception was Governor Deval Patrick, whose speech was inclusive. It could have been more inclusive.
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 humanist community in the greater Boston area. According to Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, both the White House and the staff of the Governor's office who were organizing the event were contacted in advance repeatedly with requests to include the non-theist community in the memorial service. "All they had to do was say one word, or allow one official guest, and they didn't", said Epstein, "...we [the Secular Coalition for America] contacted them [the governor's staff] every hour on the hour".