obama inauguration
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. administers the oath of office to President Barack H. Obama, with his hand on the Lincoln bible, during the presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington, DC on Jan. 20, 2009. RNS photo by Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger

Who should step in to pray at Obama's inauguration?

Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio's short-lived stint as one of two people chosen to pray at President Obama's upcoming inauguration has opened debate about who could step in and offer the benediction.

Various groups have offered their suggestions, from GLAAD to Huffington Post to ThinkProgress, which unearthed the damning mid-1990s sermon against homosexuality that prompted Giglio to withdraw. (ThinkProgress' list is especially interesting)

Here's our list of (real and imagined) possibilities. Some are obvious, some less so. For our betting dollars, we're banking on someone like Giglio with a unique profile but not necessarily a headliner.

Ideas for your pray-er picks? Let us know in the comments section below.


California megachurch pastor Rick Warren

Pro: He's done it before, offering the benediction at Obama's first inauguration, in 2009. And he's a household name.

Con: His choice was widely criticized by gay-rights groups after Warren fought for Proposition 8, which ended gay marriages in California. A Warren pick would do little to calm the controversy Giglio stirred.


Jesuit priest James Martin

Pro: He's the chaplain for Colbert Nation and a popular Catholic author, and there's a small but determined group of fans already petitioning the White House to sub him in.

Con: While Martin's popular in the press and Catholic circles, his national profile doesn't quite reach Rick Warren-levels.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Pro: The back-slapping archbishop prayed at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions last year, and as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he's arguably the most powerful Catholic prelate in the country. Picking Dolan would also mend fences with Catholic bishops.

Con: Relations between the hierarchy and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. have been, well, rocky -- mostly over the administration's contraception mandate.  Dolan already got grilled for inviting Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner last fall, and he's said he felt personally betrayed by Obama's failure to craft a contraception compromise that could work for the bishops.


AME Bishop Vashti McKenzie

Pro: She's a friend of the president and served on his faith-based advisory panel. She's also a trailblazer, becoming the first female bishop in the historically black AME Church.

Con: Yes, it's unfair, but there's already a black woman on the program-- civil rights widow Myrlie Evers-Williams, who is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer.


Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson

Pro: The first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church is now a D.C. local and, in retirement, has time on his hands. He got a high-profile prayer slot at the 2009 inaugural weekend, and would be cheered by gay groups upset over Giglio's selection.

Con: Robinson, while a strong supporter of Obama, remains a widely controversial figure to conservatives who accuse of him of causing schism in the Episcopal Church. Plus, subbing in a high-profile gay man could be seen as obvious and, well, pandering.


Rabbi David Saperstein

Pro: The head of the D.C. office of Reform Judaism is arguably the city's most connected Jewish powerbroker, and he has close ties to the White House.

Con: There's no real reason why Saperstein wouldn't get it, but also no real reason why he would. Saperstein also likes to keep his distance, not wanting to get too cozy with the powers-that-be in order to prevent him from having to repay too many favors.


Sojourners founder Jim Wallis

Pro: The Sojourners founder is a strong progressive who's in line with the White House and has good relations with the administration. Plus, he's everywhere.

Con: See above: he's everywhere. Perhaps a bit too well known; he doesn't need a presidential invite to raise his profile or satisfy his ego.


Sister Simone Campbell

Pro: She's a close ally of the White House, drumming up support for the president's health care overhaul and shooting holes in Republican Paul Ryan's budget cuts. Her advocacy -- she organized the Nuns on the Bus -- got her a prime-time speaking slot at last summer's Democratic National Convention.

Con: Even though she's a nun, Campbell is seen as more of a political figure than a religious one. Plus, with relations with Catholic leaders already strained, the image of a Catholic woman (even a nun) might not sit well with some in the all-male hierarchy. Then again, it wasn't enough to keep her out of the DNC the same night Obama accepted his nomination.


Disciples of Christ president Rev. Sharon Watkins

Pro: The president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a close ally of the White House and has Obama's ear.  Plus, she's one of the few female possibilities that are known quantities to the White House.

Con: Despite her close ties to the White House, she cuts a relatively small national figure and could be seen by some as, well, uninspired.


Franklin Graham

Pro: Offering a high-profile slot to the scion of the Graham dynasty would be seen as an olive branch to evangelicals who have resisted Obama at nearly every turn (and voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney). The Grahams have a long history of praying at presidential inaugurals.

Con: Not gonna happen, simple as that. Graham got into hot water last year for refusing to say if Obama is a Christian, and his views on homosexuality (not to mention Islam) are even more strident that Giglio's. A F.O.B. (Friend of Barack) he's not.


Mohamed Magid

Sayyid Syeed, Imam Mohamed Magid or Nihad Awad

Pro: Obama has long strived to improve America's reputation in the Muslim world, and offering a prayer gig to Syeed (an interfaith veteran), Magid (head of the Islamic Society of North America) or Awad (head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations) would be highly symbolic.

Nihad Awad

Con: The last thing this White House wants or needs is to sow further doubts that Obama is a closet Muslim or terrorist sympathizer. He's had a hard enough time convincing people he's a Christian, and Muslim activists are accustomed to working with the White House under the radar screen.


Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter

Pro: The Florida megachurch pastor is a moderate evangelical, more concerned with climate change than homosexuality. He's been a spiritual confidant and policy adviser to the president, and has the trust (if not occasional suspicion) of mainstream evangelicals.

Con: There's no real argument against him other than that he's sometimes seen as too cozy with the White House by some evangelicals. But that's not an automatic disqualifier. In many ways, he might emerge as the most obvious choice -- he's mostly noncontroversial, he has the president's ear and a wide following. Even if he did defend the initial choice of Giglio.


Senate Chaplain Barry Black or House Chaplain Patrick Conroy

Pro: Black and Conroy are as conventional as they come -- part of their job is to remain out of the headlines, so there'd be little to worry about. Plus, the Capitol steps where the inauguration will take place is just steps from their offices.

Con: Unexciting and predictable. Again, perhaps unfair, there's already an African-American pray-er on the program for the nation's first black president on Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- Black, too, in African-American. Conroy, who's held his post for less than two years, is a relative unknown.


Rev. Luis Leon

Pro: As rector of St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House, Leon is arguably the preacher Obama hears most often, since its where he most often goes on Sunday mornings (which isn't that often). The Cuban-born Leon could also be a nod to the president's Hispanic supporters. An inaugural prayer partially delivered en espanol would be a milestone.

Con: Like Hunter, there's no reason to think Leon couldn't get the gig, but no compelling reason why he should. Plus, presumably he'll already have the president's ear at the traditional morning-of inaugural prayer service at St. John's.



  1. I would like to vote for United Methodist Bishop Minerva Garza Carcano, who was born and raised in Edinburg, Texas. Bishop Carcano supports comprehensive immigration reform and is also fully supportive of LGBT rights in the United Methodist Church and in civil society. I love this woman. I think we should have a Latina giving the benediction and a gay Latino man reading the inaugural poem.

  2. Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, a nationally-known organization in Los Angeles that gives gang members new options for being positive contributors to society.

  3. I would like to invite the pastor from the flying spaghetti monster church after all it was his noodle appendage that created the earth.

  4. How about nobody at all? I don’t mean to be anti-religious, but this is a secular political event and the addition of any kind of prayer is purely “ceremonial deism” done only for show. Why do it at all?

  5. Sister Simone Cambpell, without a doubt!

  6. Sister Simone Campbell, without a doubt!

  7. I recommend Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, president of Healing for the Nations Foundation and senior minister emeritus of The Riverside Church of New York. He can represent the understanding that our nation needs healing in many ways.

  8. I take offense to statements like, “There’s already another black person praying on the program.” I don’t recall white presidents limiting the number of white folk on the program for the sake of black people’s sensitivities.

  9. The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Bishop of Washington. Pro-LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, economic justice, social justice, anti-war. Plus, she is local. It’s happening just down the street.

  10. How about this… how about when we get to pray again at football games and high school graduations, the president can have someone pray at his inauguration?

  11. Why were no representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church on the list? In the past a representative of the Eastern Orthodox Church, usually the Greek Orthodox Archbishop was always invited.

  12. I have to agree with Mike…It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that obama doesn’t believe in God anyway, so why make a continued mockery of God by having some ‘so-called prayer’ at the ceremony. obama is doing everything he can to make himself the god and disperse with the real truths of the bible. obama is ruining the USA but God will always have the upper hand – I just want to see that happen, when the Holy Spirit knocks him off the pedestal.

  13. P.Lane–That sounds like a real satan worshiper…perfect for obama

  14. She would be a perfect choice. She rejects traditional Biblical moral teachings, so does Obama. Neither one is really a Christian. Obama’s preaches inclusiveness, but really means that only those who reject Biblical morality are welcome. Why should the Inauguration be an example of hypocrisy, because only those who pass the politically correct test are welcome. The rest of us are not worthy of inclusion.

  15. How about we–and I mean everyone, regardless of tradition–show some love, compassion, hospitality, and charity in our remarks? Let’s love our neighbor.

  16. Why not the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Shori? Among other things, she presides over the National Cathedral, which will soon be conducting same-sex marriages.

  17. Shori would be perfect because like Obama she has rejected traditional Christianity. We are living in an age of a new politically correct McCarthyism, in which anyone is suspected of ever having failed to support political correctness is black listed the way that suspected communist sympathizers were black listed in the early 1950s. Only this time the new McCarthyism is an even greater threat to freedom because it has official governmental support from the corrupt and immoral Obama administration which has shredded our constitutional form of government and turned America into a third world dictatorship presided over by an arrogant and not too intelligent testimony to the mistake of affirmative action.

  18. Here’s a radical idea. Instead of all these religious powerbrokers, how about a humble (wo)man of God from the back of beyond that NOBODY has ever heard of?

  19. No one should step in. Why do we need someone praying at a purely civic event? Let Obama and everyone else who wants to pray do their own praying, separately, privately. Keep the churches and religion out of government. Those who ignore this separation are ignorant of the horrors that resulted throughout history whenever churches and government mingled, and they are defiant of our Constitution that orders a separation between the two. This is the second time in a row that Obama invited a preacher who is ignorant about homosexuality and obviously hates gay people to pray at his inaugurations. Just as with his bold coziness with Wall St., in his word with the voters, Obama turns 180 degrees when it comes to governing. He is not the grand compromiser, he is the convenient deal maker–with the wrong people.

  20. What, exactly, is “traditional Christianity?” And how would you know the intimate thoughts and feelings about religion that are held by Shori, Obama, or anyone else–unless you had spent a very long time conversing with them or studying their positions? What is your presumed alternative to “traditional Christianity?”

    And, “pray” tell, why do we need anyone, church person or anyone else, praying at our civic events?

  21. How about no one, no praying? That can and should be done in private, at home, or in church. Inaugurations are civic events–and they are a waste of a whole lot of public money. They should be simply done, and they should be done at the White House, the seat of the Executive Branch, not at the Capitol.

  22. We need prayers at Obama’s Inauguration because if there is a time that our nation need God’s help it is now. The 1st amendment was never intended to secularize our nation. From the very beginning our nations has sought God’s blessing and guidance for our leaders Congress opens with a prayer every day. Our Presdients have called for prayer in times of trouble since the beginning of our nation. If there is ever a US President who has needed God’s guidance it is Obama.

  23. Traditional Christianity honors the Biblical teachings on morality, something that that woman does not. For example a traditional Christian believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, not two men or two women. A traditional Christian would not favor government support for abortion causing drugs or abortion at all.
    We need prayer because our nation need God’s blessings and our leaders God’s guidance. The 1st amendment was never intended to prevent public prayer. We have always had prayer at civic events from the very beginning of our nation. has need God’s blessings.

  24. Unless you’re going to say “there’s already a white male on the program” after every white male listed, you might want to be careful saying, “there’s already already a black female on the program.”

  25. He doesn’t believe in God because he doesn’t believe what you think the Bible means?

  26. Why not invite Lady Gaga or Jayz to do it?

  27. You use the word hate rather loosely. Belief that someone’s acts are sinful does not mean that Christians hate them. I for one am tired of being called hateful and a bigot by the pro-gay lobby just because I do not agree that sex between two men is natural and blessed by God. I am sick of being attacked because I believe in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and interpret them the way that Christians have always interpreted them on moral matters.
    When he first ran, Obama promised to bring us together and has turned out as the most divisive president in our history. His policies show no respect for the beliefs of traditional Christians. He openly persecutes those whose religious beliefs oppose abortion inducing medications. He shows no respect for the constitutional form of government and when Congress will not give into his demands, rules by decree like any third world dictator. I believe that in time he will be seen as the very worst president in American history, if we still have a nation left after he is finished destroying it.

  28. Actually, we should all pray – that God protects our country from this destroyer!

  29. Amen. I am beginning to believe those who argue that Obama is deliberately destroying our country, so he can rebuild it as a socialist welfare state in which the minority work to support the majority who keep relecting Democrats to use taxation to rob from the producers to give to the parasites who elected Obama.

  30. If you are looking for a scam forex site, this is the place for you. Here you find all forex scammers!

  31. I like how all the Muslims are all grouped in one suggestion …also no representation from non-monetheistic faiths?

  32. I cannot understand why Christians make such a big deal out of public prayer when Jesus, who they claim to follow, instructed his followers to pray in private.

  33. Mike…really??? Can you be that lame….Christ also said …”For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matt.18:20

  34. You are taking Our Lord’s comments out of context. He was speaking of private prayer, not public prayer. There is a difference. It is an issue to Christians, because we have always had prayer at our public events. Obama has established a politically correct litmus test that would eliminate any Christian from participating who upholds traditional Christian moral values. He is supposed to try to be president of all the people by recognizing that those of us who hold traditional Christian moral values are also Americans. The Presidential Inauguration should include all of us. Obama should try to bring us together, not continue to divide us by his radical agenda.

  35. How about someone who stands firm on the word of God. I mean someone who really believes the Word of God is 100% accurate and inspired by God and calling sin by its true name. The only thing pastor Louie Giglio did wrong was not to stand firm on his beliefs and his sermon from 20 years ago. He spoke the truth so lets bash him and call him names, really? I find it interesting how God is so clear in the Bible when he speaks about sin and defines very clearly what sin is, yet people who are called to serve Him will sell out in order to please the masses. Every time people choose to try and rewrite the Bible, its like crucifying Jesus all over again.

  36. I don’t know if you were just trying to be funny, real, or sarcastic; however, I took it as funny and sarcastic…lol

  37. Yes we need to pray for our leaders; however, God gives us all free will. Unfortunately most people will choose not to serve God nor His purpose but to fulfill and please the masses. Especially those in politics who like to play the role of God.

  38. So sad how we are right where the Israelites were. People please open your eyes…..prayers for u all and me to turn to Jesus

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