After being cleared of mail fraud allegations, organizers of the “Religious Inaugural Celebration …” in Washington, D.C., proceeds on course with plans for this month’s interfaith prayer service that coincides with the change in administration.
Charges of misleading the public were directed against James “Johnny” Johnson, who planned the gathering in his capacity as an independent, evangelical lay minister. (He serves as vice-president of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, and was assistant secretary of the navy under Richard Nixon. Johnson also has close ties with the President-elect, who appointed him director of veteran’s affairs in California in 1967. He was the first black ever named to a state cabinet post.)
In October, Johnson’s independent inaugural committee issued more than 40,000 formal invitations, which bore a gold, embossed eagle emblem. The official-looking invitations requested attendance at a “nonsectarian, nonpartisan, nonpolitical” prayer meeting on January 19 and 20 at Washington’s Starplex Armory. After the election, Ronald Reagan’s official inaugural committee complained that the invitations would confuse and mislead recipients by suggesting that purchasers of the tickets would be treated to an appearance by either Reagan or Vice-president-elect George Bush. In fact, neither one had agreed to attend the festivities, though both were invited.
As a result, a grand jury investigation was threatened and then dropped when Johnson’s committee agreed to alter substantially their emblem and name (from “Presidential” to “Religious” Inaugural Celebration with Love), and to provide their guests with disclaimers edging away from the promise of a presidential appearance. Johnson expected several thousand participants. ...1
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