Writing in the New York Post, columnist Kirsten Powers notices something that’s been bugging at least one editor of a Jewish news agency for weeks: President -elect Obama is going with an all-Protestant prayer team on Inauguration Day:
Religious Americans would be wise to make common cause with atheists on this issue. When you give the government even a little power over religion — in this case, the power to choose who gives the blessings at an inauguration — it gives it an opportunity to exercise religious preferences.
The choice of pastors to perform the four official religious duties during the Obama inaugural is the perfect example: Evangelical minister Rick Warren will deliver the swearing-in invocation; Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson will deliver the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial; United Methodist pastor Joseph Lowery will offer the benediction, and Disciples of Christ Rev. Sharon Watkins will deliver a sermon at the National Prayer Service.
All four pastors are from Protestant denominations. Yes, there is "diversity" of the politically correct kind: One is a woman; one is African-American; one is openly gay, and one is a straight, white guy.
But Catholics and Jews – who in the past have been represented – are left out in the cold (not to mention Muslims).
While surely unintentional, the inaugural committee appears to be endorsing Protestantism over other faiths.
Remember Harry Golden’s old line about Barry Goldwater ("I always knew the first Jewish President would be an Episcopalian"). Well, get this… Obama’s choice to deliver the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial, Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopalian bishop, says he won’t use a Bible or be "especially Christian" when he does the invocation because, "While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans."
Click here for more on the story behind the story of Robinson’s selection. In short, to some extent, it appears the pick had something to do with neutralizing liberal backlash against Obama’s selection of Pastor Rick Warren, who has made controversial statements that have upset gay rights supporters.
That’s all fine and good. But couldn’t the Obama team have found a gay non-Protestant clergyman (or clergywoman)?
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that the full roster at the day-after prayer service will include representatives of the three largest synagogue denominations: "Three rabbis, representing the three major branches of American Judaism, will also say a prayer at the service, according to officials familiar with the plans. The Jewish clergy are Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, sources said."
Well, it’s not the main stage, but it’s certainly a step up from an auxiliary gig on the High Holidays.