The clergy were Protestant, and so was the new head of state.
But the inauguration Tuesday of President Barack Obama aimed for a much broader audience: an increasingly diverse America, where people want their beliefs acknowledged in the nation's most important ceremony.
In his address, Obama referred to God and Scripture, saying, "the time has come to set aside childish things," from 1 Corinthians.
But he also reached out to American secularists, calling the United States, "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers." The Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, based in Amherst, N.Y., called recognition in the inaugural address "truly historic and remarkable."
Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, whose participation drew criticism from liberals and gay rights groups, directly invoked Jesus as expected in his invocation, but did so personally.
"I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life," he prayed.
He also quoted from the most important prayer in Judaism, the Sh'ma, when he said, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One," and he called God "the compassionate and merciful one," a phrase from Muslim devotion.
"His was as inclusive a prayer as an evangelical can give," said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a United Methodist considered the dean of the civil rights movement, focused on poverty and social justice.
"Lord, on the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate. On the side of inclusion, not exclusion. Tolerance, not intolerance," he said.
He called the stage where Obama took his oath "this mountaintop," a reference to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final speech. Lowery also quoted from the song known historically as "The Negro National Anthem."
"God of our weary years, God of our silent tears," he said, at the start of his benediction.
Prayers at inaugural ceremonies generally draw little attention, but this year was different. Obama spoke of his faith openly during the election, trying to change the image of the Democratic Party as hostile to religious voters. He has also welcomed nonbelievers, who tend to vote Democratic, in his speeches and public appearances since his earliest days of campaigning.
His supporters had been deeply upset by the prominence of the Christian right during the administration of President George W. Bush, and they watched to see what religious signals Obama would send at his swearing-in.
Warren is a Southern Baptist who wants to broaden the evangelical agenda to include environmental protection, fighting poverty and ending AIDS. He also backed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California. Gay rights advocates and liberals were outraged that Obama had given Warren a place of honor at the ceremony.
Obama, who prays with Warren, said he wanted the event to reflect diverse views and insisted he remains a "fierce advocate" of equal rights for gays. The new president had also asked Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, to give the opening prayer Sunday at the inaugural-kickoff event at the Lincoln Memorial.
In his invocation Tuesday, Warren did not refer to the controversy. However, he asked God to forgive "when we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve." He also prayed for "civility in our attitudes, even when we differ."
Warren said Jesus' name in four languages — English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew — and ended his invocation with "The Lord's Prayer," from the Sermon on the Mount.
Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, who leads interreligious outreach for the American Jewish Committee, called Warren's invocation "inclusive even as it was slightly exclusive," for praying in Jesus' name and ending with "The Lord's Prayer."
"I don't think the language of the prayer itself is offensive, but the context of the prayers, coming from Christian Scripture, is somewhat exclusive," Greenebaum said.
Some atheists and agnostics had sued unsuccessfully ahead of the swearing-in to keep references to God out of the event.
Obama began the day at St. John's Episcopal Church, where presidents since 1933 have prayed before being sworn in. Several evangelical clergy spoke at the service, including the Rev. Luis Leon and the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland church in Longwood, Fla. Bishop T.D. Jakes, a Dallas megachurch pastor, gave the sermon.
Mouw said the day sent a clear message: A liberal Democrat can be pious, and in the Obama administration, faith will have a place.
The clergy were Protestant, and so was the new head of state.
- AP Story Section
Inside bin Laden’s lair with SEAL Team Six
WASHINGTON (AP) — So much could have gone wrong as SEAL Team Six swept over Pakistan’s dark landscape, dropped down ropes into a compound lined by wall after wall, exchanged gunfire and confronted “Geronimo” face to face. The vital things went right.
Just about every contingency the 25 commandos trained for came at them, rapidly, chaotically and dangerously, in their lunge for Osama bin Laden.
- WWII pilot gets Distinguished Service Cross BOSSIER CITY, La. (AP) — A Texas man nearing his 90th birthday has been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in a daring 1943 attack on Nazi-controlled oil fields in Romania.
- Ohio dad who shock-collared kids gets 16 years XENIA, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for disciplining his children with a dog shock collar.
- Cop suspected in wife’s vanishing loses new love BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (AP) — A woman who became engaged to a former suburban Chicago police sergeant suspected in his wife’s 2007 disappearance moved out of his home Friday, hours after he spoke about his current and past relationships on a national television show.
- Pythons found after brief escape from Calif. home SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A 23-foot, 130-pound python can run but it can’t hide.
- Bush first visit to future Dallas home DALLAS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush has made his first visit to the $2.1 million Dallas house that he’ll soon call home.
- Doctor says octuplets appear healthy BELLFLOWER, Calif. (AP) — Newborn octuplets in Southern California are a feisty bunch that appear healthy even at nine weeks premature, a doctor said Tuesday.
Austin program works to restore wildlife habitat
AUSTIN (AP) — Patricia Roberts-Miller says her yard was a boring swath of grass when she and her family moved into their North Austin home three years ago.
- TI to shed 3,400 jobs by September Texas Instruments Inc., which makes chips for cell phones and other gadgets, said Monday it will cut 3,400 jobs because demand has slackened amid a slowing economy.
- Elder Bush: Son held to principles after attacks NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush says he’s proud of how his son held to his principles during his presidency and kept the U.S. safe after the 2001 terror attacks.
- More AP Story Section Headlines
- Inside bin Laden’s lair with SEAL Team Six