At Mayor’s Breakfast, ‘Interfaith’ Means Atheists, Too

January 7, 2010

Author: Daniel E. Slotnik

Source: The New York Times

Six newcomers to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast stood out in the crowd of more than 400 religious leaders draped in vestments varying from turban to cassock. But the coterie did not draw attention because of unusual garb; this group included the first nonbelievers invited to the breakfast in the eight years that Mr. Bloomberg has held it.

After thanking the assembled religious leaders for coming, Mr. Bloomberg addressed the delegates from New York City Atheists, New York’s division ofAmerican Atheists, in the first paragraph of his remarks in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library on the slushy morning of Dec. 31.

“I also want to welcome, for the first time, those who don’t profess a faith but who do love our city,” the mayor said.

Jane Everhart, director of communications for New York City Atheists and a guest, was enthusiastic about the warm reception. She said that when Mr. Bloomberg first mentioned “the new people who aren’t connected to any faith but who love this city just the same,” everyone else in the room turned to look, and “this Episcopalian priest turned around and kind of saluted me, and smiled, and it was like ‘hey, welcome guys.’ ”