Is there anyone who should be disqualified from praying for the president? Who gets to decide?
The official inaugural festivities are underway so now starts the countdown on who says what about God, Jesus or the Higher Power (a vague term I can only recall seeing as a default category in opinion surveys). More than a dozen clergy and religious civic leaders have been lined up to bless Barack Obama's presidency. And critics are lining up to "bless out" some of the invitees.
Gene Robinson, the actively gay Bishop of New Hampshire who is a lightning rod for controversy in the Episcopal Church, is expected to kick off the "We Are One" concert with a call to all to offer their prayers to God anyway they understand God. This drives denominational traditionalists wild.
Tuesday, Rick Warren has told his Saddleback Church parishioners, he'll pray as he always does, in Jesus name, when he does the invocation for the swearing in ceremony. (So says the Bully Pulpit web site here). And this drives some non-Christian believers and total unbelievers wild.
By then Obama himself will have already been to church. He's starting the morning at the historic little church near the White House with a Christian prayer service featuring Texas mega-church pastor Bishop T. D. Jakes. (Haven't heard gripes -- yet -- on this)
Wednesday, a full spectrum of the faithful have been invited to the pulpit of the National Prayer Service and already there are allegations circulating about the Muslim leader, Ingrid Mattson.
Mattson is a professor, founder of a program that Muslin chaplains for the U.S. military, and past president of the Islamic Society of North America (the nation's largest Muslim Civic group). But an Associated Press news story points out that there are allegations that ISNA had ties to radical groups including Hamas, the ruling group in Gaza. According to the story (here)
Neither Mattson nor her organization have been charged. But prosecutors wrote in July that they had "a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking" the group to Hamas and other radical groups.
Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama's inaugural committee, would not discuss the case or say whether the committee knew about it. "She has a stellar reputation in the faith community," Douglass said Saturday night.
(UPDATE: The American Civil Liberties Union, representing ISNA, calls this a blatantly false smear. In a press release Sunday, the ACLU said,
There is absolutely no direct evidence that ISNA has any ties to terrorist organizations, including Hamas, and any implication to the contrary is nothing but guilt by association created by the U.S. government through its illegal and false accusations. In fact, after the government made its original public smear, it admitted to ISNA's lawyers in private that the government has no evidence of wrongdoing by the organization.)
So, back to my questions: Is there anyone who should be disqualified from praying for the president? Who gets to decide?