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The Presidential Inauguration’s War on Catholics and Jews


Forget the Rev. Rick Warren’s bigotry or the absence of Gene Robinson from the public broadcast of We Are One, because there’s another controversy brewing over the inauguration. Namely, the monopoly enjoyed by protestants, and the regular absence of priests, rabbis, and yes, even imams.

No shaloms or assalamu alaikums going around D.C. today, because as Time reports:

… for the sixth straight presidential Inauguration, rabbis won’t have a place on the dais. And the Jewish faith isn’t the only religious tradition that continues to be snubbed. Since 1985, only Evangelical Protestants have played a part in the swearing-in ceremony. That will continue again this year when megachurch pastor Warren delivers the invocation and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, an African-American Evangelical, offers the benediction. At a time when the United States is more religiously diverse than at any other point in its history, and Obama’s entire campaign was built on the notion of a newfound inclusiveness and multiculturalism, it seems a glaring omission.

Of course, the inaugural prayer, like the United States itself, is a young phenomenon. It only began in 1937, when Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a regular ceremony. In recent years, delivering the honor fell to evangelical Billy Graham, in 11989, when George H.W. Bush asked him on stage for the opening and closing prayers. Bill Clinton invited him back in 1993 and 1997, and Graham’s “prayed in fairly broad terms, referring just to ‘God’ and using the formulation ‘I pray’ instead of ‘we pray’ to make clear that he was not imposing his Christian prayer on the entire citizenry.”

But then:


But the absence of non-Christian religious leaders was felt even more deeply starting in 2001, when Graham’s son Franklin ended his invocation with an exclusive statement: “We … acknowledge you alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” This was not a prayer offered on behalf of all Americans but on behalf of Christians alone. It bookended George W. Bush’s Inauguration with a benediction by Kirbyjon Caldwell that declared, “We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ,” and instructed, “Let all who agree say ‘Amen.’ ” If you didn’t agree, there was apparently nothing for you to do but shuffle your feet.

On:           Jan 20, 2009
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    • Darth Paul

      I want a Reverend Mother to do it next time.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 9:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Christian

      I was wondering about this, given the uproar over Warren. Another example of why religion has no place in politics.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 9:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • duanewilliams

      We are inaugurating a new civil government that supposedly honors separation of church and state. So why is there any representation of religion in the ceremony? It’s time to stop paying respect to religious superstition and mythology in governmental affairs.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 9:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MoonRaven BlackAsNight

      I’d like to see a Wiccan High Priestess cast a circle of protection around Obama as a good-will gesture between the Wiccan people and the government.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 9:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Nick11

      One nation divided under God.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 11:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jennifer

      Frankly, it should have been Katherine Jefferts-Schori who gave the Invocation. Warren’s Invocation remarks were extremely POOR. I expected nothing more. Imagine if the Obama team had done the right thing and asked the world’s first woman Archbishop to preside. Now, that would have been something to remember. Thank God for Joseph Lowery, though. At least he spoke in a language that everybody could identify with.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 2:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • kevin

      As a Christian, I thought there was too much emphasis put on the Christian religion in this ceremony. And Warren’s recitation of the Lord’s Prayer was cliche and wrong for that audience. Besides, despite the LP being a staple in many mainline (read: not Evangelical) Christian ceremonies, Jesus didn’t say “this is WHAT you should pray”, but rather “this is HOW you should pray”. Thanking God and asking for justice, tolerance, while committing to do the same can be said well in with any choice of words.

      I think Warren’s use of the prayer was dispassionate and sloppy.

      And I can’t imagine anyone believed him, of all people, when he asked for “tolerance” and “respect”. I laughed out loud when I heard him say those words!

      Jan 20, 2009 at 2:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RainaWeather

      @MoonRaven BlackAsNight:

      Me too.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • todd

      Biden is a devout Catholic. I wonder if he wore Prada shoes.

      Jan 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • adzomelk

      i would to see a chicken slaughtered & have the blood sprinkled on the chief justice for the purification of the nation

      Jan 20, 2009 at 11:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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