Nuance: White House vetting prayers said before Obama events

posted at 5:32 pm on February 24, 2009 by Allahpundit

Out: Vetting cabinet appointees for tax problems. In: Vetting preachers for Jesus problems! No wonder Daschle slipped through the cracks.

Sue, atheists. Sue like the wind.

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, according to religion and politics experts…

“If a similar thing had been done by President Bush’s White House, I guarantee you there would have been a lot of people crying foul,” says Bill Wichterman, deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison under President George W. Bush. “Democrats can do this with immunity, but when Republicans do it, it becomes controversial.”…

[M]any church/state experts are unfamiliar with the program. “The only thing worse than having these prayers in the first place is to have them vetted, because it entangles the White House in core theological matters,” Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said upon learning of the Obama invocations…

James Bing, the pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., said he chose to self-censor his prayer. “For some strange reason, the word Jesus is like pouring gasoline on fire for some people in this country,” he said. “You learn how to work around that.”

Do you have to learn how to work around it? Rick Warren invoked Jesus at the inauguration — albeit after sprinkling in prayers from Judaism and Islam to make the affair safely ecumenical. I wonder now if that was at The One’s insistence. It’s probably safe to say, at least, that the gay Episcopal bishop didn’t need to be cajoled to reduce his rhetoric to the warm mush of “the God of our many understandings.” Exit question: Who’s up for seeing Hitchens and his lawyer roll into court with a complaint to knock this one out of the park, huh? Come on. Common ground at last!

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Way to throw Christ under the bus Pastor Bing. Luckily for you He won’t return the favor.

Mack08 on February 25, 2009 at 8:50 AM

“Having prayers in places like Indiana where public prayers are commonplace would help the president,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.” ie: prayers as PR.

“Friendship Baptist Church
Where you can meet Jesus – your best friend ever !
, from the web page “Our Beliefs” @

From “Citizen” magazine, March, 2009
“If you believe there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell,” he says, there’s no excuse for thinking, “Well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would be socially awkward.” He boils the issue down to one question: “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that?”

The “he” in that quote is well known performer and atheist, Penn Jillette. Strange days indeed when an atheist is closer to the truth of Jesus than is a baptist pastor.

oldleprechaun on February 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM

Citizen magazine got it completely right, oldleprechaun.

When Christianity first began, Christian’s were routinely tortured, killed for sport, and fed to lions for goodness sakes! All for professing Christ’s name. How shameful is it now that those who supposedly represent the faith cannot even bring themselves to suffer a little public outrage for the sake of their saviour.

Lobe on February 25, 2009 at 11:50 AM

Somehow I have the feeling that if the guy from the Tohono O’odham Nation improvised a prayer and said something you found objectionable, you folks here would be complaining that they didnt vet the prayer.

Look – this is simple. Wait until they actually ask for a change in a prayer, then examine what they asked to be changed and why they requested it. Then you might actually have a case.

orange on February 25, 2009 at 12:09 PM

I’m more worked up by the vetting than the self-censorship. It’s been commonplace for years for religious leaders to be conscientious about their audience, and pray a somewhat generic prayer in public settings. If, for example, a Christian minister has been working with other community leaders on poverty, emergency shelters, etc. and developed a relationship with the local rabbi and imam, that minister may be asked to pray at the dedication of a new homeless shelter and choose to pray to “God” without adding “Jesus, the Savior of all mankind” without denying his faith (IMHO).

I will of course acknowledge (and admire) Billy Graham for publicly praying in Jesus’ name for years.

As to the vetting, it exercises a dangerous level of control over the speech and religious freedoms of those delivering the invocations. Choose wisely- get a well-respected, noncontroversial religious leader, maybe have him pray earlier as noted above.

My initial thought was “maybe the vetting was a reaction to the racially-tinged prayer…” but apparently not. I guess that one passed the vetting? Or he changed it on them?

cs89 on February 25, 2009 at 12:20 PM

oldleprechaun on February 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM

Lobe on February 25, 2009 at 11:50 AM


AH_C on February 25, 2009 at 12:30 PM