How dare you invoke Jesus' name!
At the end of his inaugural invocation, Franklin Graham closed with "All this we pray in the name of the Father, the Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen." Similarly, Kirbyjon Caldwell's benediction ended, "in the name that's above all other names, Jesus the Christ. Let all who agree say amen." USA Today says that some folks had a problem with that. "The problem with saying Jesus is that it cuts off access to the Father for Muslims, Jews and others," explains historian Martin Marty. In an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, law professor Alan Dershowitz goes even further. "The plain message conveyed by the new administration is that George W. Bush's America is a Christian nation, and that non-Christians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully equal citizens," Dershowitz writes. "In effect, Bush is saying: 'This is our home, and in our home we pray to Jesus as our savior. If you want to be a guest in our home, you must accept the way we pray.'" In his own defense, Caldwell tells USA Today, "It is never my intention to insult anyone who hears a public prayer that I offer! [But] I was not proselytizing, trying to make others believe like I believe. I am a Christian, I was invited by a Christian president to offer a prayer. I would have been misrepresenting who I am and arguably even why I was there had I not prayed in Jesus' name." The Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land agrees: "When we ask people to pray, we should say they are free to pray as they pray. I would be shocked if any presidential adviser had any discussion with either pastor about the content of their prayer."

More on the inauguration and religion:

The abortion debate skips across the pond
As commentators, pundits, and politicians discuss the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Bush's decision to reinstate the ban on overseas abortion aid, few Americans may have noticed that the debate has suddenly popped up in the U.K. as well. As the BBC notes, "In the U.S., abortion is the political hot potato. But at Westminster it rarely gets a mention. Until now." Liam Fox, Britain's shadow Secretary of State for Health, said in a booklet by the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) that British Christians should "pray that there would be a huge restriction, if not abolition, of our proabortion laws." The U.K., which legalized abortion in 1967 (six years before Roe v. Wade), allows for a pregnancy to be terminated before it reaches its 24th week. Fox says he'd like to see that shorter, or better yet, outlawed altogether. His comments reignite the debate, which only seems to occur in spurts across the pond. Two years ago, Ann Widdecombe, who was also shadow health secretary, "said she would be unable to keep the portfolio in any future Tory cabinet because she was against abortion," according to the BBC. And last year, Conservative leader William Hague also called for tougher abortion laws. Britain's prolife movement is elated. Critics are calling Fox's statements "American fundamentalist" and politically motivated. "Liam Fox's stance reflects determination to win votes from religious conservatives at the coming general election," says a subhead at The Independent, which profiles the CCF.

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Other stories:

Black churches:

  • Have a care, Rev. Rivers | There may or may not be a need for a new Jesse Jackson. But there was no excuse for the way Eugene Rivers danced on his presumptive grave last week. (Adrian Walker, The Boston Globe)
  • Black churches as big players in city renewal | With record attendance, black churches are buying stadiums. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Religion and politics:

Pope's travels:


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