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Posted at 9:58 AM ET, 01/ 2/2011

Gray kicks off inauguration day with inclusive prayer service

By Michael DeBonis
Christopher Dean Hopkins

Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray started his inauguration day Sunday with a prayer service attended by several hundred well-wishers and supporters.

The Rev. Dr. Henry Y. White of Brown Memorial AME Church led the service, which featured Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu leaders, as well as a gospel choir. "Thank you for a new year, a new season, a new beginning," he said, adding a prayer that "every leader will feel included in the moving forward of our city."

Gray's campaign theme of "one city" was touched on by several speakers, who also spoke of the magnitude of the tasks facing the new mayor.

"This is a mammoth job, a big job," said the Rev. Dr. William H. Bennett of Good Success Christian Church in Ward 7, in a prayer for Gray. "But this is a big man with a big heart."

D.C. Council chairman-elect Kwame R. Brown and colleagues Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier attended the service, as did Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and former county executive Wayne Curry.

Japan's ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki, also attended the service. He shouted his congratulations to Gray when introduced.

Gray afterward called the service "a great example of the fact we are one city."

His swearing-in, along with those of council members, is set to begin at 10 a.m. Cardinal Donald Wuerl is expected to give an invocation then.

By Michael DeBonis  | January 2, 2011; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election, Marion Barry, Mike DeBonis, Vincent C. Gray  
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Next: 'Phil' Graham sworn in as Council member

Comments

Why wasn't Mayor Fenty in attendance? Oops, I forgot he doesn't believe in God.

Posted by: mmatthews1 | January 2, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Apparently belief in God is a requirement for being a part of the "one city"

Posted by: jackowen | January 2, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for letting me know that, as an atheist, I'm excluded from the "inclusive" city.

Posted by: rah1962 | January 2, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The choice of the word "inclusive" in the headline for this article is quite wrong.
Non-theists, non-believers, atheists, Humanists, secularists, freethinkers etc. were EXCLUDED from this meeting's agenda.
see: http://www.secular.org/node/292
for details.
Inclusive... HA!
One City - Only for god's children.
Note: recent serveys report that 15% of US population does not associate itself with any religion.

Posted by: slowe111 | January 2, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

After this brief time-out to acknowledge the deity, we will return to our regularly scheduled corruption and incompetence.

Posted by: slim21 | January 2, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Way to set an example for DC visitors, Mr. Mayor- start praying when you enter the city, praying you get out with your life and wallet intact.

Posted by: hairguy01 | January 2, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

This politico-religious event seems out of place for a secular civil government and out of step with seperation of church and state. I wish everyone might have gone instead to their own church and prayed on their own outside of the official agenda of the inauguration of the Mayor. What a wrong impression it makes. And the Swearing in ceremony which followed was just as bad; opened AND closed with a very Catholic Christian prayer by the highest ranking Christian in the city, the newly red hat-ed Cardinal Wuerl. Jefferson is weeping.

Posted by: slowe111 | January 2, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I hope Gray stops excluding humanists and that the Washington Post stops misreporting his administration’s “inclusiveness.”

After integrating a white fraternity and supporting gay marriage, it seems out of character for Gray to disregard humanists this way. However, for now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is simply clueless on this issue – not making the connection between humanist/atheist/agnostic inclusion and other civil rights issues such as racial integration and gay marriage.

He needs to get clued in!

Posted by: efavorite | January 2, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

to rah1962: If this event was open to the public, I'm sure you would have been welcome to attend. No one excluded you. Atheists are more than welcome in churches, mosques, synagogues, etc., as far as I know. Besides, just because you don't express belief in a particular faith doesn't mean that others should suppress theirs. Freedom of religion NOT freedom from religion.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 2, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

urbandweller - if you read what rah said - he did not say he was excluded from attending the service.

Also, what do you mean "Freedom of religion NOT freedom from religion"?

I know that some people think that the US allows citizens to choose whatever religion they want, but does not support having no religion at all.

I'm hoping that's not what you meant.

Posted by: efavorite | January 2, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

efav: Perhaps I should have been clearer. Thanks for calling me on it. I assumed he felt physically excluded or unwelcome since he does not profess a theistic faith. Actually, atheism is considered a "belief system."

As for the "freedom of religion..." comment: Many for some reason think that our political leaders should not profess or display their religious faith because of separation of church and state. I'm no constitutional scholar but interpreting the constitution in its historical context will shed light that the framers simply meant that there would be no "State Church" like the Church of England or the Lutheran Church in Sweden which would be financially supported by the State and where citizens automatically would be members (unless they specifically profess another faith or allegiance to another denomination.

Yes, citizens can choose whatever religion they want or none at all. But the constitution does NOT say that there can't be any religions expression in government at all--just that the government cannot establish a state religion.

The constitution does not preclude elected officials from publicly practicing their faith. This service was ecumenical in that it included representatives from several faith traditions. This was a clear indication that the DC government and it's new mayor were not proselytizing and a clear indication that they welcome and will include the diverse races, cultures and faith traditions represented in the city. If atheists wanted to be represented at this service I'm sure (and I hope) they would have been welcome.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 2, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

RE: efav who said: Actually, atheism is considered a "belief system."

Actully no. Atheism is neither a belief nor a system. It is simply the absence of theistic belief. it is a conclusion (not a belief) based on the lack of evidence for the existance of or need for a theistic entity. There is no system. Humanism, on the other hand is a philisophical system or world view that encompases principles of ethics, and behavior and looks toward reason and science as methods to know the world.

Posted by: slowe111 | January 2, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Actually it was urbandweller who made the comment about a belief system. He is a very smart guy who just happens to be uninformed on this issue. Think of "atypical" or "asexual" or "amorphous" - the "a" signifies "without."

By the way, the Secular Coalition of America did ask to have a humanist celebrant at the prayer service and was turned down.

http://www.secular.org/node/292

Posted by: efavorite | January 2, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

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