Six prominent clergy members — including a Catholic cardinal, black and Hispanic Protestant leaders and a rabbi — will pray at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The inaugural committee told The Post on Wednesday that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Rev. Franklin Graham, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Pastor Paula White will all give readings at the ceremony.
The choice of clergy members to speak at previous inaugurations has drawn criticism, including Barack Obama’s choice of Pastor Rick Warren in 2008 because of Warren’s anti-gay-marriage stance. Trump’s inaugural committee chose some clergy members, including Jackson and White, who were associated with Trump during his campaign, as well as others like Rodriguez, who spoke out against Trump’s views on immigration and other issues of importance to his Hispanic Christian community.
“It’s a particular honor that shows the greatness of America,” said Hier, the first rabbi chosen for an inauguration since Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985. When Hier’s selection was announced Wednesday, he mused about what his parents — who fled anti-Semitism in Poland and moved to America before the Holocaust — would think about his role. “Whatever you turn to in the Torah, one can find connections and relevance to whatever period of history human beings live in. So that’s not going to be a challenge.”
Trump chose more clergy than his predecessors, who since 1989 have picked just one or two people to pray at their inaugurations.
Graham previously prayed at the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001. The son of famed evangelist Billy Graham who now runs the association named for his father and the charity Samaritan’s Purse, Graham defended Trump throughout his campaign against charges that the businessman went against Christian values. When many Republicans were expressing disgust in October over the release of a tape showing Trump speaking crudely about women on the set of Access Hollywood, Graham wrote on Facebook, “The crude comments made by Donald J. Trump more than 11 years ago cannot be defended. But the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended. . . . The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court.”
Jackson, pastor at Great Faith Ministries International Church in Detroit, hosted Trump for a visit to his church in September. And White, who runs a major ministry based in Florida, helped orchestrate Trump’s meeting with hundreds of evangelical leaders in June and has been called one of his top spiritual advisers.
“In American history Inauguration Day is one of the most sacred and important celebrations we have as a people, not only because it signifies the peaceful transition of power but also because on this day ‘We The People’ appeal to the favor, blessing and guidance of God on our country, on our people and on our new leadership,” White said in a statement.
She is the only woman among the six people who will pray at the inauguration, and the second woman ever to pray at an inauguration, after civil rights leader Medgar Evers’s widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, became the first in 2013.
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