Meet The 6 Religious Leaders Who Will Pray With Trump On Inauguration Day

The group includes two prosperity gospel preachers, one rabbi, one Catholic priest, one Hispanic Christian leader and the son of Billy Graham.
Six religious leaders will offer prayers and statements on Inauguration Day.
Six religious leaders will offer prayers and statements on Inauguration Day.

When President-elect Donald Trump steps up to the podium on Inauguration Day, he’ll be joined by six religious leaders ― more than any of his predecessors had for their inaugurations. These faith leaders will offer prayers, statements and benedictions for the momentous occasion.

Incoming presidents always select religious leaders to offer their blessings on the day of inauguration, and those leaders are often either a personal spiritual guide to the politician or a representative of the values the president-elect will carry into office.

The six leaders chosen for Trump’s inauguration come from a handful of different faith backgrounds, and they include evangelicals, one Catholic leader, one Jewish rabbi and the first female religious leader to participate in an inauguration. Some have already been at the center of controversies, and others have faced backlash from their faith communities for agreeing to participate in Trump’s inauguration. Some spoke out against the president-elect’s proposed policies during his campaign, while others tried to remain neutral. On Jan. 20, they will all stand beside Trump as he’s sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Scroll down to learn more about the six religious leaders selected to participate in the inauguration:

Paula White
Televangelist Paula White spent a good part of the 2016 presidential campaign working to convince evangelicals to vote for Donald Trump. And on January 20, she'll be the first female clergy member to offer a prayer on Inauguration Day when she joins Trump onstage. Myrlie Evers-Williams, a layperson and the widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, was the first woman to deliver an inaugural invocation, for the occasion of President Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013. The Rev. Sharon Watkins previously became the first female clergy member to offer inaugural prayers at the National Prayer Service on January 21, 2009, the day after Obama was first sworn in as president.

White preaches the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God rewards true believers with material wealth. Her website encourages followers to send a "seed" to the Almighty in the form of a monetary donation, suggested at the amount of $115. In 2007, she was among a group of televangelists investigated by the Senate following reports of lavish spending. The investigation was dropped three years later.
Rabbi Marvin Hier
Michael Kovac via Getty Images
Rabbi Marvin Hier will be the first rabbi to offer a prayer at an inauguration since 1985. Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global human rights organization that works to combat anti-Semitism. On his selection to participate in the inauguration, Hier told The Washington Post: “It’s a particular honor that shows the greatness of America."

Many human rights activists and members of the American Jewish community criticized Hier's decision to participate in the event, especially given the rabbi's earlier condemnation of Trump's bigotry. A petition has called on Hier, whose parents fled anti-Semitism in Poland and moved to America before the Holocaust, to drop out of the proceedings.
Bishop Wayne T. Jackson
Bishop Wayne T Jackson/Facebook
Like White, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson has also been known to preach the prosperity gospel at his Detroit church Great Faith Ministries International. Unlike White, Jackson is a long-time Democrat who has contributed to Democratic campaigns over the years.

For that reason, many black Republicans balked when the Trump campaign selected Jackson to host the then-candidate as part of black outreach efforts. Trump visited Jackson's church in a September event, which the pastor said wasn't an endorsement but rather "an opportunity as a community to get answers to questions that seriously impact our daily lives and future." During the event, Jackson presented Trump with a tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl, drawing confusing and criticism from some Jewish commentators. But as religion scholar Anthea Butler later noted, prosperity gospel preachers frequently used the Jewish article of faith as "a symbol of God’s favor and power."
Rev. Franklin Graham
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, will offer a biblical reading at Trump's inauguration. It'll be Graham's third inauguration -- after having assisted his father Billy Graham at the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1997 and offering the invocation at President George W. Bush's first inauguration in 2001. Graham was careful to keep his political preferences to himself throughout the campaign, but after election day, he made it clear he believed God himself had selected the winner.

Graham's views, particularly on Muslims and the LGBT community, have elicited backlash in the past. Months before Trump ever proposed a ban on Muslims entering the country, Graham publicly floated the idea on Facebook. And in years past, the Christian leader has claimed gays could go to heaven only if they repented.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Bennett Raglin via Getty Images
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, sat between Donald Trump and then-presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at a Catholic gala event in October and later reflected on the "icy" atmosphere between the two. On his part, Dolan had remained fairly neutral throughout the election season, only speaking out to criticize Trump’s stance on immigration. After the announcement that he would be speaking at the inauguration, Dolan said he was "honored."

“I am honored to have been asked to offer a reading from Scripture at the upcoming presidential inauguration, and look forward to asking Almighty God to inspire and guide our new President and to continue to bless our great Nation,” he said in a statement.
Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
Rev Samuel Rodriguez/Facebook
Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, criticized Trump's bigoted comments about immigrants during the campaign but asserted the then-candidate was not racist despite calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "criminals." In December, Rodriguez said in a statement, "I have enjoyed getting to know President-elect Trump and his team over many months."

"It is with deep gratitude that I express my thanks to President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence for affording me the privilege of participating in their swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20. There is truly no greater honor than to serve one's country in such a special way on such a momentous occasion," he said.

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