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First on CNN: Who’s delivering prayers at the DNC
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who closed out the GOP convention, is also giving the final prayer at the Democratic convention.
September 3rd, 2012
11:01 PM ET

First on CNN: Who’s delivering prayers at the DNC

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

President Barack Obama has a penchant for using high-profile prayer givers to send messages to the nation.

At his 2009 White House inauguration, Obama called on Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation, signaling an attempt to tamp down on the culture wars (Warren is a theologically conservative evangelical who was close to George W. Bush).

Closing out the inauguration of the first black president was a prayer from The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights leader who worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Obama campaign sent us a list of who will be delivering the opening and closing prayers each day at this week’s Democratic National Convention.

“The important role faith has played in President Obama’s own life and the lives of many Americans will be reflected in Charlotte," said Clo Ewing, a spokesperson with the campaign. "The Convention will include diverse religious leaders who are committed to the common good and understand that America needs a president who leads with values.”

Here’s a cheat sheet of who the prayer givers are – and why they matter:

Tuesday’s invocation (opening prayer): Metropolitan Nicholas, bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit

Why he matters: Nicholas is a leader in a giant global movement that has a tiny U.S. presence, with the Greek Orthodox representing a fraction of 1% of the U.S. population. But Nicholas is a symbol of the country’s rich religious diversity, opening the convention with a nod to minority religions.

Tuesday’s benediction (closing prayer): Jena Lee Nardella, executive director of Blood: Water Mission

Why she matters: Nardella represents the young evangelical demographic that the Obama campaign is targeting in this election, knowing that older evangelicals are largely locked up for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Nardella started Blood: Water Mission, which focuses on combating the HIV/AIDs and water crises in Africa, at age 22 with the Christian music group Jars of Clay.

Wednesday’s invocation: Vashti Murphy McKenzie, presiding bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Why she matters: McKenzie is the first woman elected bishop in the AME Church, the country’s oldest black religious denomination. She offered opening prayer at the 1996 Democratic National Convention and is an Obama campaign co-chair. Earlier this summer, first lady Michelle Obama addressed a big AME conference, saying: “To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better.”

Wednesday’s Benediction: David Wolpe, rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles

Why he matters: Hailed as the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek, Wolpe is a prolific author and media personality who's recognizable to many American Jews, who constitute an important voting bloc in some swing states and whose whose ranks include many big political donors. Though Obama won 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, Romney is claiming that Obama has mistreated Israel and Republicans say they see an opening, especially among Orthodox Jews.

Thursday invocation: The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Why he matters: Salguero is cutting an increasingly high profile in America’s Hispanic community, a crucial Democratic bloc whose evangelical ranks are swelling and who tend to be socially conservative but liberal on immigration reform, education and economic matters. Getting those voters is a top priority for Obama in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

Thursday benediction: Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York

Why he matters: As the nation’s highest-visibility Catholic official in a year when the Catholic vote may tip the election, Cardinal Dolan is in high demand by the political parties. Just last week, he was in Tampa, delivering the benediction for the Republican National Convention. Dolan has blasted the Obama administration for compelling insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage to nearly all American employees, but having the cardinal follow Obama on Thursday is a way for the president to show he isn’t at war with the Catholic Church.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Politics

soundoff (427 Responses)
  1. MJ

    I'm sorry, but I will never believe that Obama is not at war with the Catholic Church...He just wants to get re-elected so he can continue in his agenda to subjugate America and continue with his agenda to dictatorship or, at the least, socialism...Does he really think Americans are so stupid ?

    September 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Howie

      Just the catholic ones, and the protestants, and the muslims, and the santa claus believers. In fact all of you who deny reality and waste your time and money following the writings of some insane homeless desert nomads that may or may not have lived 2000 years ago.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "He just wants to get re-elected so he can continue in his agenda to subjugate America and continue with his agenda to dictatorship or, at the least, socialism...Does he really think Americans are so stupid ?"

      well seeing as you think he wants to subjugate america and has an agenda to become an dictator then I would say he would be right in thinking some americans are stupid

      September 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  2. nena

    We just have to be patient with those, like Bob, that have no faith and no hope in life. Bob, and many like Bob, you are missing so much of lives blessings of happinness and great success because of your lack of faith. It would seem that having faith in life should be commom sense, but we have all kinds of folks with different ways of thinking. some people are more positive and other people are so very negative. Who wants to hang out with a negative person, Yuck!! If people would open their minds and their hearts and have faith in the positive life, their lives would change and blessing of joy and wealth and good health would come to them. Life can be so simple just by having faith and believing in themselves and having faith in themselves and in the good side of life. Later for all negative things that bring you down, I'd rather be happy.

    September 4, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Howie

      Faith and hope are completely different things. I am full of hope. Faith is evil. Faith will get you killed. Faith is a decision not to think independently and critically about what your leaders are trying to sell you. To have faith is to be less than human. Dogs have faith. We are smarter than that.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "If people would open their minds and their hearts and have faith in the positive life, their lives would change and blessing of joy and wealth and good health would come to them. Life can be so simple just by having faith and believing in themselves and having faith in themselves and in the good side of life."

      and yet its christians that are constantly moaning about some war on religion, trying to get gay marriage banned, telling people how to live their lives etc etc. Seems they arent exactly living the life of joy and roses there.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Pollyanna

      nena,

      Tsk, tsk. It sounds like you have a very negative view of negativity!

      September 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  3. Ken

    Goddog...COY? Not at all. We each have our own experiences inside and outside of religion so I will leave it at that.

    Good day!

    September 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  4. Bootyfunk

    oh boy! which cult leaders get to speak at a political rally? this sure is exciting. what brand of ignorance, guilt and fear will they talk about?

    September 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  5. dbrock

    Where is the ACLU? Pretty soon, all prayer will be outlawed in America so enjoy that little freedom while you still got it.

    September 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      cry more. no one is saying you can't pray at home or in church - just not in the political arena. and look, you get to pray in the political arena anyway. christians get what they want - and still cry. boohoohoo!

      September 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      You're just never happy, are you dbrock. First there are not enough prayers, then there are too many. Next they are the wrong prayers, given by the wrong people. If you feed from the bottom of the tank, you never seem to have time to look up.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Jackson

      If you want politics to stay out of your religion, then keep your religion out of politics.

      It reall is just that simple.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Jeff

      1.) Do you have any evidence of you claim?
      2.) Its shockingly ironic that you said this in the comment section for an article that is about prayer in government functions.
      3.) What about the rights of those that choose not to pray? Do they not have the right not to be indoctrinated by a belief system they don't want to be a part of?

      September 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  6. Skeptical Thinker

    So the DNC did FINALLY take up Dolan on his offer......I guess they realized they had to.

    September 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Brad

    Rev. Wright not available?

    September 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Bob

      hahahaha....a classic!

      September 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      Check your calendar, Brad. This is 2012.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jackson

      Yawn.

      Stale talking point.

      Was that the best shot you could take?

      That's just sad.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • vatoloke

      Rev. Wright?! Been hangin' with Snow Snookie huh?

      September 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  8. LHWFMY

    All I know is that I'm thankful for the Truth. We can spit and sputter, pound our fists and make as many claims as we want. But in the end, the last one standing with be the Truth. Period.

    September 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      “The important role faith has played in President Obama’s own life and the lives of many Americans will be reflected in Charlotte," said Clo Ewing, a spokesperson with the campaign. "The Convention will include diverse religious leaders who are committed to the common good and understand that America needs a president who leads with values.”

      Oh please I think I am going to barf, no, I know I am going to barf. Obama's christianity is suspect as is his love of the U.S.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jeff

      Unfortunately in a subjective universe, there is no absolute, objective "Truth." Each person has a miniature truth that works for them, groups of people have truths they can agree on; but there aren't any universal Truths.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  9. grayfox

    ...so when repubs pray to God at their convention and dems pray to God at their convention, does the losing party mean that God didn't answer their prayers? Or is that one of those "God works in mysterious ways" kind of thing? You know, like when Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry said God told them to run for office?

    September 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • joe

      Rick Perry and Michele Bachman are sure proof that God has a wicked sense of humor.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mrs. Red

      No who ever the electorial college puts the votes in for will win the election. God does not have time to pick our president . It is people who exercise Freedom and Civil Liberties who vote. I give it much research and thought before I vote. I use the brain God gave me, the brain that is very capable of thinking for itself, IMO that is what the creator means for us all to do with it. As far as the prayer thing, I am glad they choose to do it. I pray privately, I pray in public. Those who do not like it can look away. It takes only takes a little bit of thinking and a closed mind to be an atheist, it takes much thought to have relious convictions(all religons) and hold on to them in this day and age. But either way you go is ok, it is your brain, body and soul. God Bless Us and rember to Vote !

      September 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      @Mrs. Red: What a clear and simple explanation of God's role in all things, and our responsibilities under the Declaration of Independence. The reason we are given unalienable Rights, is that they are given by God for us to use according to his purposes, and they can not legitimately be either compromised or taken away by man, as they are God given and indispensable to responsible self-government (Democracy). Thank you for your wise and truthful comment.

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

      September 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "It takes only takes a little bit of thinking and a closed mind to be an atheist, it takes much thought to have relious convictions(all religons) and hold on to them in this day and age"

      no it takes little thought, there is no effort involved in saying 'its all magic, god did it!' and merrily go on your way.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  10. Dennis

    religion the drug of the common people!

    September 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  11. WDinDallas

    Maybe he should get Richard Dawkins...snort!

    September 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  12. Ken

    Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Bob

      Nonsense. God has never answered any prayer, ever. Your sky fairy doesn't exist, so grow some courage and get on with your life.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Ken

      Bob, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to respond. I'm not trying to trying to sway your opinion. I was merely expressing mine and respecting yours, that is until you obviously felt compelled to respond with an insult and demeaning characterization.

      And yes, I do have a good life full of riches, but not the monetary kind.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Goddog

      Ken, you think you are being coy... Look, the non-believers are so mean and disrespectful. The fact is that there ARE a lot of unanswered prayers, god or no god, and they involve a lot of pain and suffering for a lot of people. For you to come out and call that a "gift" shows how the immorality of religion has truly closed your eyes and heart to true humanity. I will pray for you.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  13. TSB8C

    Since neither Obama or Biden practice any of the religious beliefs of these various prayer givers, this is all just show to win over various perceived voting blocks. I for one do not vote for a candidate simply because the leader of a group I may align with is asked to pray at an organized function of a specific candidate. Look at what that candidate has or has not done. Their actions speak way more than the token invite to a leader of some group. For example, if I adhere to a religion that is against abortion and gay marriage (Catholics for example) than supporting a candidate who is for those things would be an affront to my religious values, regardless of whether a priest from that church was asked to pray at the convention.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jackson

      If that were the benchmark, no religious person could speak at any political event, since politicians in both parties lie, cheat, and commit adultery.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  14. jason

    Be a Republican Christian: Kill the poor

    September 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • workinprogress

      right, because there is no such thing as a poor christian?

      September 4, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Ken

      I'm a Christian and rich, but not in a monetary sense.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • workinprogress

      great answer Ken. I am certainly not "rich" by the world's standards, but my riches bring me far greater joy!

      September 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • KMW

      I am also rich but not in monetary things and quite frankly, very happy.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      Jason, spreading lies is not a very christian thing to do except that you are a sycophant for the black plague.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  15. PJ

    Most Catholics are against everything Dolan stands for.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • CMoses

      Then they should leave the Church. I can tell you that just about everyone I've talked to at my church is in support of Dolan. Maybe you just live in a liberal town.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • mikem

      Then either Dolan is not Catholic or they are not Catholic.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • KMW

      PJ,

      I am a Catholic and agree with Cardinal Dolan as do many Roman Catholics. Many Protestants also agree with him (Mike Huckabee to name only one).

      September 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  16. tim young

    WOW!!!. some of the comments on this post has made me realize how important prayer is ON A HOURLY BASIS. I am going to pray for each of you today when I go to prayer. GOD BLESS YOU I AM A Disciple of CHRIST.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Howie

      Someone please notify the asylum that another one escaped. . .

      September 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • KMW

      Thank you Tim Young and I will also pray for you. I am a Roman Catholic and we pray to the same God.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  17. Bob

    Unfortunately, no god will ever deliver anything back. Prayer has never, ever been shown to have any effect.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • workinprogress

      prayer has no effect for those without faith, but for those that do, realize that God doesn't always answer our prayers the way we would like nor when we would like.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Bob

      Baloney. Present any case of prayer having been proven to have any effect other than waste time.

      If you can't do that (so far no one has), then your claim fails and you should have the decency to retract it.

      I'm waiting...

      September 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • workinprogress

      I'm sorry Bob, for your lack of faith, but God has answered many of my prayers.
      I have prayed for the health of my children when they were deathly ill;
      I have prayed for help when I didn't have the money to make ends meet;
      I have prayed for protections from serious storms when destruction was all around me;
      I have prayed that God would help me to love my enemies or those who despise me because of my love for God;
      I have prayed that God would increase my faith;

      God doesn't always answer 'yes', God doesn't always answer the way that I would like, and God doesn't always answer when I would like, but He always answers.

      Have you ever wondered, how so many believe and can see God's hands in everything, yet you cannot? Perhaps, because you are "blind" as I once was. I'll pray for you too.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • joe

      Actually, you are wrong. Just last year a clinical study discovered that seriously ill individuals who utilize prayer during their treatments often recover sooner than those who don't.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • martin

      Since when is God a vending machine which you think a person can pop quarters (prayers) into and out pops your prize? Or when has God been considered a genie which must bow down to a person's demands; like some dog? By that very logic you have made yourself a god which is an obvious fallacy. Prayer disposes you to God's will; not the other way around.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • KMW

      You are way off the mark. My prayers are frequently answered and maybe not always the way I want them to be. God sees the whole picture where we only see part of the picture (My Catholic priest mentioned this in one of his homilies). I am also very glad about those times he did not give me what I wanted as it would have not worked out in the end.

      September 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "Actually, you are wrong. Just last year a clinical study discovered that seriously ill individuals who utilize prayer during their treatments often recover sooner than those who don't."

      and sugar water can work like morphine. Placebo effect.

      the whole 'he doesnt always answer prayers' argument is an excuse to try to justfiy why nothing happens. god exists god exists god exists........he just choose not to answer this time but he exists, honest. etc

      September 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  18. LOL

    Where are the liars crying secret muslim? Beer drinking, pork eating, people bowing, secret muslim hahahaha.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • PJ

      This had to have been written by a redneck.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  19. J Walk

    Has the christian values at election time....but he did not recognize national prayer day. SAD.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Bob

      Sad for America that so many still believe the Christian supersti-tion. Much of the rest of the world is moving ahead of us in science and medicine as a a result of Christian idiocy here.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • notea4me

      Looking good for the Dem's

      September 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • notea4me

      Exactly who's prayer would endorse?

      September 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • maine liberal

      You are sad in your lies "he did not recognize national prayer day"

      NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 3, 2012, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite all citizens of our Nation, as their own faith directs them, to join me in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and I call upon individuals of all faiths to pray for guidance, grace, and protection for our great Nation as we address the challenges of our time.
      IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

      may God forgive you

      There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

      —Proverbs 6:16–19

      Exodus 20:16 "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

      September 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Sra. Julia

      So he didn't kiss some evangelical's A$$ on national prayer day .... big deal national prayer day is just B$ !
      All the bible thumpers do is keep us behind the rest of the world in science, logic, math, and medical research with their foolishness and lies! It will be a huge improvement when we dump this religious nonsense and get down to the REAL facts and move not only us but the world ahead in the areas that really count like science, research, medicine, math, and education. And tax all religious organizations for what they are Business the business of emptying your pockets and controlling your lives. See how far they get when the tax man shows up.

      September 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "but he did not recognize national prayer day. SAD."

      not only did he recognise it, he also claimed that a court ruling against it was wrong.
      He choose not to hold a ceremony for it in the white house, which is not unusual as the only president who regularly did was bush jnr, no other president did.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  20. JAB62

    Its so sad we do this in this country. What ever happened to the separation of church and state? It's a political convention not a religious retreat.
    "The Convention will include diverse religious leaders who are committed to the common good and understand that America needs a president who leads with values.” Ya, christian values. And we all know how great they are.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:52 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.