Who Should Be Allowed to Pray for President Obama?

It seems preposterous, but there’s a major debate over who is worthy to invoke the presence and blessing of the Almighty on the leaders of this land we love!

BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor


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offered by anti-sex-trafficking activist Louis Giglio. However, Giglio was abruptly disinvited when he was deemed unworthy for the role.

The Rev. E.L.R. Elson praying at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1957 inauguration.

At a number of inaugurations throughout history, multiple prayers were offered. In Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 20, 1953, ceremonies, the Catholic archbishop of Washington prayed, then a Jewish rabbi, followed by Eisenhower himself. The final benediction was offered by an Episcopal bishop.

At the January 20, 1969, inauguration of Richard Nixon, five prayers were offered: first, African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Charles Ewbank Tucker, then Los Angeles Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin, followed by His Eminence Iakovos, Greek Orthodox Archbishop for North and South America, and Southern Baptist Evangelist Billy Graham. The final benediction was offered by Catholic Archbishop Terence J. Cooke.

Archbishop Michaal Iakavos at Nixon’s inauguration

Nobody protested who was going to pray. The press didn’t seem to care. But things have certainly changed. Why?

At his January 20, 1977 inauguration, Jimmy Carter trimmed the prayers back to an invocation by Methodist Bishop William Cannon and a benediction by Catholic Archbishop J. R. Roach.

At his January 20, 1981 inaugural, Ronald Reagan called on his own pastor, Donn Moomaw of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, to give both the invocation and the benediction.

Hollywood Presbyterian Pastor Moomaw at Reagan’s inauguration.

Billy Graham took care of both prayers at the January 20, 1989 inaugural of George H. W. Bush, then again at Bill Clinton’s January 20, 1993 inauguration. 

Each time it hardly made the news. And so, it’s a troubling sign of the times for inaugural praying to be embroiled in controversy – with special interest groups vetoing prayer-givers who have offended them and politicians scurrying to dodge being the next target, setting dangerous precedents in the process.

Billy Graham at the Reagan White House

At George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration, there were two clergymen. The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell prayed in “the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ.” And the Rev. Franklin Graham urged Americans to “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.”

“Why did Franklin Graham go this far?” asks Steven Waldman, former editor-in-chief of Beliefnet, writing in the Wall Street Journal. “To some degree he and Mr. Caldwell probably just prayed the way

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