Magazine article Church & State

Obama Prayer Policy Sparks Complaints from across Political Spectrum

Magazine article Church & State

Obama Prayer Policy Sparks Complaints from across Political Spectrum

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama's practice of opening rallies and public meetings with non-sectarian prayer is drawing fire from advocates of church-state separation and the Religious Right.

Dan Gilgoff, who writes the "God & Country" blog for U.S. News & World Report, first revealed the practice in February. Gilgoff reported that several rallies the White House held to promote the economic stimulus package opened with clergy-led prayer that was first screened by the White House.

Gilgoff told the story of Ryan Culp, a minister in Elkhart, Ind., who turned down a request by Obama to deliver a prayer during the presidential campaign because he is a conservative Republican who did not want to be perceived as an Obama supporter. Culp was asked again now that Obama is in office and this time obliged.

The day before Culp was to give the prayer, he was required to call an aide at the White House and recite the prayer for approval. The aide told him the prayer was "beautiful."

Prior to a town-hall meeting in Fort Myers, Fla., the White House vetted a prayer by James Bing, pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church, and in Phoenix, an administrator for the Native American Tohono O'odham Nation delivered a prayer before Obama took the stage.

Gilgoff wrote, "Though invocations have long been commonplace at presidential inaugurations and certain events like graduations or religious services at which presidents are guests, the practice of commissioning and vetting prayers for presidential rallies is unprecedented in modern history. …

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