Islam expert Robert Spencer at JihadWatch.org, criticized Warren for including a common refrain from Islam’s Quran – “You are the compassionate and merciful one.” He also used terms common to Jewish prayer and the Spanish pronunciation of “Jesus.” Warren also drew criticism from atheists who, incredibly, thought the prayer was too religious. At least one lawsuit was filed, attempting to ban any
prayers at the ceremonies and to purge “so help me God” from the Oath of Office.
Barack Obama with Rick Warren
On the Dallas Morning News website, a poster named Alex slammed Warren, saying, “Not exactly inclusive. Invoking Jesus ‘who taught us to pray’ alienates all non-Christians.” Warren was bitterly denounced by the gay community before and after the event – because he had preached on numerous occasions that practicing same-gender sex is a sin.
In Canada’s National Post, editorial writers seemed amused by all the criticism. “In the United States, as in Canada,” they wrote, pundits always talk “a good game about diversity, pluralism and inclusiveness. The catch is that they don’t really intend to indulge these values, except in alliance with people who share their opinions. Diversity is great when it means affirmative action and speech codes. But it goes too far when it strays into friendly relations with” anybody having opposing views.
At that same Obama 2009 inauguration, the closing prayer by civil rights pioneer the Rev. Joseph Lowery also came under fire – with charges of racism.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery at Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
Lowery opened his prayer with the first words of the “Negro National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice and Sing – “God of our weary years,God of our silent tears …”Lowery then implored the Almighty to help Americans make “choices on the side of love, not hate, on the side of inclusion not exclusion, tolerance not intolerance.” He borrowed from Isaiah, suggesting we “beat tanks into tractors.”
He then asked our Creator to “help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.”
For his second inauguration, Obama’s precedent-setting selection of the 79-year-old Mrs. Evers-Williams to give the invocation was applauded. Evers-Williams is a longtime civil rights worker and author who for decades worked tirelessly to prosecute the murderer of her civil rights pioneer husband Medgar Evers in 1963. She served as chair of the NAACP, edited The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches, published in 2005, and wrote her own autobiography, Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be, published in 1999. The story of her husband’s assassination was told in the film Ghosts of Mississippi with Whoopi Goldberg playing Evers-Williams.
However, a firestorm erupted when Obama announced that the benediction would be offered by Atlanta pastor and anti-slavery and sex-trafficking activist Louie Giglio.
Atlanta pastor Louis Giglio
The White House abruptly announced that Giglio would not be giving the prayer after a left-leaning website found a sermon Giglio had preached against homosexuality. Twenty years earlier, Giglio had told his congregation that practicing same-gender sex is a sinful choice and that anyone guilty of unrepentant, unforgiven sin is prevented from “entering the Kingdom of God.” For preaching that sermon, he was not welcome to pray at Obama’s inauguration. Southern Baptist commentator Albert Mohler called it "a new chapter in America’s moral revolution."