Trump's Inauguration: Why Who Prays Is Always Controversial

Donald Trump's six religious leaders who will join him on stage at his inauguration have a perilous task.

The lineup of pastors, clergy and rabbis at presidential inaugurations are always controversial.

Seen to be praying, offering a benediction, reading or simply being on stage is seen by watchful churchgoers as an endorsement of everything that particular President stands for.

Equally being prayed for or inviting someone to read or give a blessing is also seen by some to be the President endorsing everything the pastor stands for.

ReutersDr. Rick Warren delivers the invocation during President Barack Obama's Inauguration in Washington, January 20, 2009.

Louie Giglio is the most famous victim of such controversy. The Atlanta-based pastor was set to give a blessing at Obama's 2013 inauguration. But in the build a sermon he had given on homosexuality in the mid 1990s was dug up. In it he condemned the "aggressive agenda" of gay rights, saying being gay was a sinful choice and LGBT people would be blocked from "entering the Kingdom of God".

The "only way out of a homosexual lifestyle ... is through the healing power of Jesus," he says in the sermon. "We've got to say to the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me ... it's not easy to change, but it is possible to change."

The furore that followed eventually led to him stepping down.

Michael Wear, Obama's faith adviser described the controversy as "easily the worst period of my time working for the president".

He wrote: "Liberals were the sharks who smelled blood in the water."

Rick Warren faced a similar backlash after he was announced in the line up for Obama's first inauguration in 2009. This time it was both from conservative evangelicals who opposed the first black President's swearing in as well as LGBT activists.

Warren, who was equally unequivocle in his opposition to gay marriage, stood his ground and delivered his invocation managing to get Jesus' name mentioned in four different languages.

Wear summed up the different inaugurations: "In 2009, our diversity demanded we accept that there will be voices we disagree with in public spaces. In 2013, diversity required us to expel all dissent."

This year's line up has its own set of controversy albeit without the hysteria of 2013.

Franklin Graham has faced calls from the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to stand down for his "extremist" views on Islam. Graham has been unapologetic in his belief that Islam is incompatible with American values.

"Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalised – and they do their killing to honour their religion and Muhammad," he wrote on Facebook in 2015.

""[T]rue Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries," he once told CNN.

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:"If President-elect Trump truly seeks to unite our nation as he promised in his acceptance speech, he will limit the list of those offering prayers at the inauguration to religious leaders who work to bring us together, not to create divisions between faiths."

Similarly Samuel Rodriguez and Cardinal Timothy Dolan have also faced criticism from their own Hispanic and Catholic communities.

Rodriguez accepted the invitation after "prayerful deliberation and discussion" and Dolan told critics he would have been just as honoured had Hillary Clinton won and invited him.

"We pastors and religious leaders are in the sacred enterprise of prayer. People ask us to pray with them and for them. That doesn't mean we're for them or against them," he said.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Museum of Tolerance, have also been told to refuse the offer.

Fellow Rabbi Jason Miller wrote in TIME: "He [Trump] denigrated immigrants, mocked the disabled and disrespected women."

He added: "By refusing this role, Rabbi Hier would be making a loud statement in defiance of prejudice and hate. He has the opportunity to proclaim to the world what his institution stands for."

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