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US President Attends Inaugural Prayer Service

Obama Attends Interfaith Inaugural Prayer Servicei
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January 23, 2013
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attended a prayer service at Washington’s National Cathedral on Tuesday, a tradition the day after inauguration. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that, while the service had a distinctly interfaith flavor, few Christian conservatives attended.

Obama Attends Interfaith Inaugural Prayer Service

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— President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attended a prayer service at Washington’s National Cathedral on Tuesday, a tradition the day after inauguration. While the service had a distinctly interfaith flavor, few Christian conservatives attended.

There was a performance by an African American gospel choir.

And a muezzin's call to prayer.

The president sat quietly in the front row as the service featured a diversity of religions.

Episcopal Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori offered a prayer. "Make us who come from many nations, with many different languages, a united people," she said.

But outside the historic cathedral still being repaired from the 2011 earthquake, the message of harmony was not felt.

Kristan Hawkins and fellow activists marked the fortieth anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. "Forty years of walking in the darkness, we cannot be silent today. It doesn't matter what's going on today," Hawkins said.

A prayer breakfast Monday drew a large crowd of conservative Christians. Many of the people at the breakfast did not vote for Barack Obama, and they most certainly disagree with his policies. But they believe that prayer gives them a second chance to influence this presidency.

"There are three things that are really very major. Number one is life, number two is Israel, and number three is judges," said Anne Boccanfuso. She believes the president is pro-abortion and anti-Israel. And she worries about who he might appoint to the Supreme Court because she believes he doesn't share her faith. “He is not a Christian. I believe that he is not a Christian,” she said.

Others do believe it.

But while diversity was also on display at the breakfast, the prayers were aimed at giving conservatives the faith to stand up to what they expect will be a liberal agenda in the president's second term.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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