Coming on the heels of the controversy caused by selection of Rick Warren to deliver the Invocation at the Inauguration, the omission of the prayer delivered by openly-gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson from the broadcast of the pre-Inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial is creating a controversy of its own.
In a conversation with this writer, Jeff Cusson, Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs for HBO, confirmed that HBO was not involved in the decision to move Bishop Robinson's remarks to a time prior to the beginning of the actual broadcast:
"HBO had no involvement in the scheduling of those who appeared as part of the televised event. You'll have to talk to PIC about all of the scheduling decisions. We had a set broadcast time and went forth accordingly."
A high level source contacted at the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) has not yet responded with official comment or explanation for the record, despite several attempts to gain clarity.
UPDATE: A PIC source reports that some clips from the Lincoln Memorial event, including Bishop Robinson's prayer, will be played on the Mall prior to the swearing in ceremony. In addition, HBO's Cusson has also confirmed that the cable outlet will include Bishop Robinson's appearance and prayer in its re-broadcast of the event.
From information available to date, it appears that Bishop Robinson's participation was moved up in time to a time before the scheduled broadcast was to begin and out of the context of the event as a whole. In addition, sources attending the event report that neither the Obamas nor the Bidens were present on stage when Bishop Robinson delivered his remarks. According to National Public Radio, a large number of attendees on the Mall were also unable to hear Bishop Robinson's remarks over the loudspeakers.
HBO sources were earlier quoted by AfterElton.com as saying:
"The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show."
UPDATE: According to John Aravosis on Americablog, a PIC representative has now apparently putting the responsibility back on HBO by saying:
"We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program. We regret the error in executing this plan - but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event."
As has been previously reported, the selection of anti-gay religious leader Rick Warren to deliver the Invocation at the Inauguration was a source of great distress for many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community due to Warren's views of LGBT American citizens as people for whom their sexual orientation is not an integrated part of their humanity but rather an aberrant "lifestyle" and his leveraging of his position as a religious leader to promote political causes in support of his views.
Bishop Robinson's prayer can be viewed via a personal recording by Sarah Pullium of Christianity Today.
The full text of Bishop Robinson's prayer is below.
A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009
Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...
Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.