Widow of Medgar Evers to deliver invocation at Obama inauguration

Fifty years ago this June, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was slain in his home driveway by a rifle shot to his head. JFK had earlier that day given his speech proposing what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although a white supremacist was arrested soon after the murder it was thirty years before he would be convicted and sentenced. One of several good reasons for the choice is it underscores a commitment to address the senseless deaths of innocents each day in our country due to the plague of gun violence.

The Washington Post reports that the widow of Medgar Evers has been chosen to deliver the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration. The inauguration falls on January 21, the Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day.

President Obama has picked Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation at his public swearing-in later this month. It is believed to be the first time a woman, and a layperson rather than a clergy member, has been chosen to deliver what may be America’s most prominent public prayer.

The inaugural committee Tuesday plans to announce that the benediction will be given by conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, which draw tens of thousands of people to events around the world.

The contrasting choice of speakers are typical of a president who has walked a sometimes complicated path when it comes to religion — working to be inclusive to the point that critics at times have questioned his faith.

The Post points out Giglio’s work drawing attention to modern day slavery,

An inaugural official said Giglio was picked for the benediction in part because of his work raising awareness about modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Those were core issues at his most recent conference, Passion 2013, attended by more than 60,000 mostly young evangelicals in Atlanta.

2013 is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The choices of Evers-Williams and Giglio draw attention to that anniversary, too.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. “believed to be the first time a woman, and a layperson rather than a clergy member, has been chosen to deliver what may be America’s most prominent public prayer”

    Beginning of the end of religion in public life.Next time, or the time after, there won’t be an invitation. Ethics has replace religion. Religion is over–Obama is an atheist. I wish he’d at least be honest enough to admit it.

  2. Ann Fontaine

    I don’t know how you know this about the President– he is baptized, he prays, he attends church (St. John’s across the street) often. How do you judge he is an atheist?

  3. Lois Keen

    As a priest in The Episcopal Church I am thrilled that a lay woman is going to deliver the invocation. Clergy have no corner on the praying market. That there will be a prayer is what is important. Maybe the clericalization of religion is over – that would not be a bad thing. I would find it to be hopeful.

    Now the really important part: Medgar Evers’ widow – that is wonderful. I was in college at the time of the death of her husband. For me, this is moment to be proud of. Good choice.

  4. Emma Pease

    I do note that there will have been no non-Protestant speaker for any prayer at the main ceremony since 1985 (from 1937 when the custom of having invocation/benediction/other prayers first started until 1985 it was customary to have a Protestant and a Catholic and frequently other religious representatives [Orthodox and Jewish]).

    Personally I think the custom of an invocation/benediction should be removed from the swearing in (note there is usually a separate prayer service anyway). The US does not have an established religion.

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