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Diverse religious expression, views to permeate Obama inauguration

World News

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen to include Jewish and Islamic clergy as well as Christians of various stripes in his inauguration ceremonies.

From the National Cathedral in Washington and the Islamic Society of North America located in Indiana to the Saddleback Church in Southern California, a variety of religious communities throughout the United States are connected to the historic event on 20 January.

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"I can’t recall any prayers drawing so much attention," Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, which specialises in religion in public life, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

The Rev. Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist who opposes gay marriage, is to deliver the inaugural prayer. Obama, however, also asked V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal (Anglican) bishop in the United States, to lead prayers at a Sunday opening event at the Lincoln Memorial on 18 January.

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, the first woman president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Protestant group, will deliver the sermon at the 21 January National Prayer Service that caps the event.

The first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America, Ingrid Mattson, and a specialist in Islamic-Christian dialogue, will offer a prayer during the National Cathedral service. The Islamic Society of North America, based in Indiana, is the largest Muslim group in the United States.

Three rabbis – Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein – representing the three major branches of American Judaism, will also say a prayer at the service, reports said.

The Rev. Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, will lead prayer on 20 January.

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