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    Warren-style "Ecumenism" Undermines 1st Amendment

    I have been somewhat reluctant to even engage in the discussion about Rick Warren offering the Invocation at the Presidential Inauguration, as there seems to be a whole lot more heat than light being offered in responses made thus far.

    But I think CT Voter and amelie have been among the most gracious in pointing out the basic issues in their numerous comments to an earlier posting of Obama On Rick Warren Pick: We Have To Be Able To Agree To Disagree by Greg Sargent on TPM.

    Presidential Inaugurations are special. In many respects, they are about symbolism as much as substance, and I think this is especially true in the choice of preacher to give the invocation.

    I understand the argument that Obama chooses, politically, to reach across the chasm and share the stage with the Christian Evangelical right-wing "opposition." It is supposedly a magnanimous gesture to showcase a willingness to get past the politics of division.

    But this isn't just a White House photo op. Nor is it a gracious invitation to participate in a WH sponsored forum on controversial issues where such an invitation to, and willingness to consider, opposing views on issues such as gay marriage or women's reproductive rights would be appropriate.

    This is instead asking Warren to call upon God to bless this Administration and this country as we write the next chapter in our history. It cannot be seen as anything other than an endorsement of Warren as a preacher who not only officially defines ecumenism, but who also understands the role religion might serve in asking for God's support of this secular government.

    Warren is not disqualified in this role for reason that he holds theological views that are at odds with mine or with others. After all, that is why we ask for an ecumenical blessing in these circumstances so that the prayer can embrace all religions and its adherents. To submit Warren or any other such candidate for "Ceremonial Preacher" to a qualifying theological litmus test would make it impossible to identify anyone who could appropriately serve as an ecumenical stand-in for all religions.

    What disqualifies Warren from giving an invocation at the Inauguration of our President, however, is the fact that he so strongly forces his theological beliefs regarding gays, women's rights, etc., within the POLITICAL arena. To now offer him the honor of representing all God's People in prayer at this Inauguration (Indeed, at perhaps the closest thing our secular government has to a "liturgical ceremony") is to legitimize his inappropriate, and very troublesome, confounding of Religion and Government.

    There are obviously innumerable choices that could have been made of ministers who more closely adhere to the separation of Church and State. Think of the manner by which the Rev. Billy Graham has done so in the past. A choice of minister similar to the Rev. Mr. Graham would be a more obviously appropriate candidate to be invited to make an ecumenical invocation at the Inaugural.

    Instead, with the choice of Warren as the religous representative to this Inauguration, Obama promotes a continuing and disturbing confluence of Church & State that treads clumsily upon our First Amendment. I think we have a right to expect better, especially as we gather together to celebrate not only the new President, but this country's continued adherence to - and the stability of - our Constitutional principles of governance.

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