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Trumps And Pences Attend Interfaith Inaugural Prayer Service

President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence and Karen Pence continued a long inaugural tradition Saturday morning, attending a prayer service that was notable for the diversity of faith participants.

While most who led prayers and offered readings at the service at the Washington National Cathedral were overwhelmingly evangelical, the long list of participants also included leaders from the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahá'í faiths. The service opened with a Navajo blessing.

The inaugural prayer service is a tradition that began with President George Washington and was revived in 1933 by President Franklin Roosevelt, continuing ever since.

While Trump's team had reportedly asked there be no sermon — a break with past services — the Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, who's the dean of the Cathedral, was pointed in his prayer by asking God to "break down the walls that separate us."

On Friday in a pre-inaugural service at St. John's Church, First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress — a vocal supporter of Trump throughout his campaign — preached a sermon that compared Trump to Nehemiah, who had worked to rebuild the crumbling walls around Jerusalem, much like the border wall Trump has proposed.

"You see, God is not against building walls!" Jeffress said.

Many of the prayers at Saturday's service asked God to provide wisdom and protection for President Trump and the country. A rabbi recited a reading in Hebrew while an imam delivered a prayer in Arabic. Sajid Tarar, a Trump supporter who also prayed at the Republican National Convention, read from the Quran.

Trump has stirred up opposition among both faith groups. During the campaign, he proposed a ban on Muslims coming into the country and has talked about a need for surveillance at mosques in order to stop terrorism. And Trump's support among the so-called "alt-right" movement of white nationalists has alarmed many in the Jewish community.

Several of the songs were patriotic ones, including "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" and "America the Beautiful," and a choir from Liberty University, whose president Jerry Falwell Jr. was also a vocal Trump supporter, sang "We've Come This Far By Faith."

President Trump's children and their families were also in attendance, including Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, a new White House adviser to Trump. The couple and their children are Orthodox Jews.

Notable participants included Alveda King, an anti-abortion activist who is the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham whose father Franklin Graham prayed during the inauguration ceremony.

Below is the full list of participants this morning:

  • Hon. Carlyle Begay, Navajo Nation
  • Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington, Episcopal Church
  • Rt. Rev. James B. Magness, Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries, Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Randall Marshall Hollerith, Dean, Washington National Cathedral Episcopal Church
  • Cantor Mikhail Manevich, Washington Hebrew Congregation
  • Rabbi Fred Raskind, Temple Bet Yam, St. Augustine, Fla.
  • Dr. Alveda King, Pastoral Associate, Priests for Life, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, Beltsville, Md.
  • Priest Narayanachar L. Dialakote, Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, Lanham, Maryland
  • Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Imam Mohamed Magid, All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center, Sterling, Va.
  • Mr. Sajid Tarar, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Pastor Greg Laurie, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, California
  • Dr. Jack Graham, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas
  • His Eminence Geron Archbishop Demetrios of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  • Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan, Canon of Worship, Washington National Cathedral, Episcopal Church
  • Dr. David Jeremiah, Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, Calif.
  • Rev. Ronnie Floyd, Cross Church, Springdale, Ark.
  • Dr. David Swanson, First Presbyterian Church, Orlando, Fla.
  • Mr. Jesse Singh, Chairman of the Board of Sikh Associations of Baltimore, Md.
  • Mr. Ian McIlraith, Soka Gakkai International - USA, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Mr. Anthony Vance, National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States
  • Mrs. Cissie Graham Lynch, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Pastor Ramiro Pena, Christ the King Baptist Church, Waco, Texas
  • His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Roman Catholic Church
  • Rev. Darrell Scott, New Spirit Revival Center, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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