Religion at the Inauguration
Pres. Bush began his inaugural day with his daily prayer and bible reading, followed by a private service at St. John's Episcopal Church before the swearing-in. The invocation was by Rev. Luis Leon, the pastor of St. John's. Bush placed his hand on the bible and added So help me God," although those elements are absent from the oath specifically prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.
During the inaugural, Attorney General John Ashcroft's much-satirized song, "Let the Eagle Soar" (praising "Only God, no other kings") was featured, along with other religious music.
The day after the inaugural, Bush attended a service at the National Cathedral.
The inaugural speech had so much religion even arch-conservative Peggy Noonan, Reagan's speechwriter, complained in a column in the Wall Street Journal that "God was invoked relentlessly."
Said Bush: "That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Qur'an, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before--ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today and forever."
The second sentence alludes to Hebrews 13:8, which says: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Among the many other biblical allusions in the speech was this passage:
"Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as he wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent home of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul." Psalm 107:9-10 refers to "the hunger in dark places, the longing in the soul."* * *
Lou Sheldon, of Traditional Values Coalition, threw a Christian bash for 800 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, with Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed, and Jerry Falwell in attendance. At another gathering for 300, Sheldon said: "That's what's happening--the fusion of religion and morality and public policy has now come about," according to the Los Angeles Times.
An unofficial inauguration prayer service was held the morning of the inaugural at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, with a thousand people paying $50 a seat.
A black-tie "Values Victory Dinner" the week of the inaugural was sponsored by Focus on the Family and similar groups.
109th Congress "Goes to Church"
So reported "Family News in Focus," the website newsletter of Focus on the Family, about the swearing-in of the 109th Congress on January 4. Rev. Daniel Coughlin, House chaplain, began the prayer at a D.C. church with Congressional leaders in prayerful attendance.
"We should not abandon faith at the door to the House floor. We should not leave the Holy Spirit in the cloakroom," intoned U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind.
"Choose this day whom you will serve," he added, quoting from Joshua in the Old Testament. "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Scalia: "Be Fools for Christ"
Speaking for free to the Baton Rouge branch of the Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus on Jan. 22, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia urged his 350 listeners to "Be fools for Christ":
"To believe in traditional Christianity is something else. For the son of God to be born of a virgin? I mean, really. To believe that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven? How utterly ridiculous. To believe in miracles? Or that those who obey God will rise from the dead and those who do not will burn in hell?
"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools . . . and he has not been disappointed. (!)
"If I have any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."
Scalia praised "traditional Catholics" for saying the rosary, going on pilgrimages, kneeling during the Eucharist and following "religiously the teachings of the pope."
"There is something wrong with rejecting a priori the existence of miracles," he added.
Scalia, the father of nine children, one of them a priest, is being promoted as a replacement for ailing Chief Justice Rehnquist. Scalia, at the request of litigant Michael Newdow, recused himself from hearing the Pledge of Allegiance challenge last year, after prejudicial remarks made to another Knights of Columbus group. (Source: Baton Rouge Advocate, Jan. 23, 2005)