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. Agnostic Atheism is Healthy for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    Let your kids be all that they can be. Just teach them that there are:

    1. Things we know that are unfounded and most likely political sales literature from the beginning of mankind (all religions); and
    2. Things that we don't know a damn thing about (god/deities).

    An agnostic approach regarding deities keeps us honest about what we don't know anything about, but also prevents unfounded junk from #2 above (religion) from dirtying up our rational thinking on the matter.

    So instead of praying to make-believe characters and trying to get others to follow the political garbage from long ago, just sit down, put on some good jazz, and collect you damn thoughts. My goodness.

    I am mama kindless and I approve this message.

    September 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • counter

      I will be sure to do the opposite of your whacked advice.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • score keeper

      counter: -1

      September 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • John

      Basically, let children think for themselves and do no indoctrinate them into a cult. Don't tell them what to think but how to think. If something sounds absurd to them they should ask questions and if the cult discourages questions or leaves them with more questions they should see this as a red flag, especailly if their mantra is "you just have to have faith".

      September 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  2. Mamafor Obama

    As a liberal Catholic I am opposed to Bishop Dolan speaking @ the DNC. He has done enough damage to the Catholic Church's reputation and to the people of this country. I think he has been bought by the Religious Right = the Religious Wrong. He does not follow in the footsteps of Christ. I'd rather have a Catholic Nun give the invocation or closing prayer. @ least then it would mean something.

    September 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So as any kind of Catholic how can you support a political platform which calls for tax payer funded abortion on demand with no limitations?

      September 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Huebert


      That is an out right lie. Their are no tax payer funded abortions. Their is already a law that prohibits that.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • BRC

      Bill Deacon,
      Your position is only true if you have a rather expansive definition of abortion. The actual medical abortion procedures were (last I heard) removed from teh health care plan for coverage long ago. If you're talking about the ability to get "morning after" pills, those aren't abortion, so no conflict there.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman's decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

      So Huebert, who will pay if she can't?

      September 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  3. pottermaine

    You want a prayer? Go to church, not a political convention.

    September 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Chris


      September 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  4. AJ

    They need Romney to give a prayer, representing the Nation's 2% Mormon population.

    September 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  5. scientificpoetry

    Who's praying... who cares?!

    September 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • veritas

      I second the motion....all in favor? Crickets......?????

      September 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Only the people who are slaves to their imagination.

      September 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Lamb of dog said "Only the people who are slaves to their imagination"

      Like scientists?

      September 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  6. unknown11

    So, I have to assume that the left will be attacking the president for combining religion and government, right? They will be accusing him of forcing his religious views on the country, right?

    Or, will this be another of those double standards that keep the left functioning?

    September 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Howie

      I wouldn't say I am on the left. I will be voting for Obama, even though I am disgusted by his display of belief in dark ages mythology.

      September 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  7. serdich

    not praying.. its called eastwooding...

    September 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Eat Whole Forks

      Clint Eastwood invented the Internets.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  8. Stating the Obvious

    Get it right LIBERAL thugs...........Freedom OF religion NOT freedom FROM religion

    September 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • serdich

      as much as you want that to be true...its not..now 20% of Americans are non-believers and Europe about 60% with some countries as high as 80%... today's religion is tomorrow's mythology, the concept if god is ever shrinking concept of scientific ignorance..

      September 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Imagine No Religion

      So, you are saying the First Amendment states each citizen has the right to chose his/her own religion, but it MANDATES the citizenry to have a religion, right?

      I submit that it is you, and Const it ution-twisting, zealot, idiot Repugs like you, who are the thugs. And rather treasonous thugs to boot!

      "There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
      Now that I found out, I know I can cry." – John Lennon

      September 4, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Freedom from religion sounds better.

      September 4, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Howie

      You have that completely incorrect. Our country was founded on the idea that no one could force his or her religion on another. That sounds like freedom FROM religion to me.

      September 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Chris

      do you think then that you are allowed to ignore certain laws because of personel faith: kinda like the family business in colorado which is not following along with the obamacare mandate health care stuff because they are catholic or something?

      September 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Why did congress print Bibles for distribution to familys in the new USA?

      Why were the Ten Commandments, along with Bible verses etched into the stone of most of our public buildings for hundreds of years?

      Right, freedom FROM religion, sounds legit. Nice revisionist BS, try harder.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Imagine No Religion


      Our government has been in violation of the First Amendment, including the examples you cited, for "hundreds of years." They got away with it because when people stood up and spoke out against the god/jesus/xian BS, they were persecuted and ostracized from society. Remember the Salem Witch Trials? Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the hatred religion has inflicted upon our civilization.

      What modern day USA religious zealots can't stand is the fact that people everywhere are waking up to the god-scam. And, though they would love to burn all us "heretics" at the stake, they can't get away with it anymore.

      Face it, the 236-year run of religious bigotry and discrimination in this country is co ming to an end. Good riddance.

      "There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
      Now that I found out, I know I can cry." – John Lennon

      September 4, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  9. Stating the Obvious

    Maybe Obama is just trying to confirm what religion he wants to be.......

    September 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  10. Elaine

    Sue +10,000^infinity

    September 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  11. Reality

    If Dolan were honest, this is what he would say:

    Only for new members of this blog:

    Based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should we believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    We believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    September 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • counter

      that is your take on it from a liberal theological perspective.

      i will go with the Son of God, died for my sins and rose from the dead, conquering death for good.

      Now that is a great reality!

      September 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  12. Marie

    Quite frankly, I'm surprised the DNC will have anyone praying.

    September 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Closet Atheist

      Politcal pandering... big shocker.....

      September 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Beadles

      There are many Christian members in the DNC – just as there are many narrow-minded, hateful bigots posting on CNN.

      September 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • larry

      That's pretty much the only way they can get O'bama re-elected and maintain a majority in the Senate. The problem is, God isn't know for doing much.

      September 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Yeah, not much, like GETTING OSAMA, and helping end Ghaddafi, the ending of DADT, the turnaround of our economy, oh, and that little thing called HEALTHCARE!
      Obama not doing much, LOL!!

      September 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Calvin

      Don't worry. Most of the DNC members will be in the back corner snorting cocaine during the prayers.

      September 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • serdich

      Good for Dems...not many delusional people...like say Eastwood...

      September 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Evil Fred,
      You are joking right?

      The military killed Osama.

      ObamaCare is the largest tax increase in US history, it will fund the most inefficient, ripe for fraud, and dysfunctional health care system in the world.

      The void left by Gaddaffi will just be filled with someone more evil then he ever dreamed of being.

      The economy is the worst I have ever seen!

      More like StupidFred, no offense but please remove your head from your *** especially if you plan to vote!!!

      September 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • KMW


      Great comment and you are so right. The dems seem to be against religion and are only interested in women's rights. The Republicans are all inclusive and fair minded.

      September 6, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  13. Howie

    I love how CNN is now censoring me for speaking out against religion. It is pathetic that the leader of the free world has to subscribe to dark ages mythology. this post will probably not get published either, but I keep trying to speak reason to the insanity.

    September 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  14. OOO

    "... 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.”

    How does an atheist like myself read this? I am a person of no values and could never, ever dream of being president.
    This kind of talk disgusts me, whether it comes from a Democrat or a Republican.

    September 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Calvin

      Turn the sound down during the prayers.

      September 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  15. PAUL

    We all need a religious precedence today...


    September 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  16. Michael

    So for this year he abandoned the HINDU PRIEST/

    September 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  17. Morgan Hill

    There are many people who can inspire and motivate others to do more self improvement and bring value to their families and to their communities. I would expect that these religious leaders will do just that. Hopefully they will be there to represent the good teachings that their religion brings to its members and to the rest of the world. When I listen to someone speak I listen to their message and how much I can learn from it. The message has to bring me value or match my own values and morals. I allow myself to listen and learn from others' experiences. If I don't agree with their message I disregard it.Let's let these religious folks contribute to the good of the people, let them inspire us to do more for ourselves, our families and our country. God bless America, God bless all Americans.

    September 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • KMW


      This is so eloquently written and I totally agree with you. God Bless You.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Howie

      You can bless me if you want, but the very idea of intelligent people professing to believe in 'god' disgusts me.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Jonquil

      This is a great post, Morgan Hill. I think it's an important time for Americans to have "the other" humanized on a National stage, to see the connections amongst communities and what Americans all share. It would be arrogant to ignore that a significant portion of Americans are religious.

      I like to see this; religious leaders showing a bigness, by accepting these opportunities, whatever their personal political opinions. Religion should be used for compassion and people should support of their free will. It is better to win people's hearts and minds through leading by example and persuading them to see the value in a belief system, than by using government force to make Americans follow religious laws and rules.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Ruby

      Thank you Morgan, very well done.

      September 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • John3:16


      September 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sue

      Morgan, that was a pathetic, cowardly post that you made. Basically, you are saying that you give no regard to opinions that you disagree with. Shameful to hear that in "free" America.

      September 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Elaine

      Sue +10,000^infinity+10,000E400

      September 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Sue, you sound particularly nasty and that's saying a lot around this bunch

      September 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  18. dangeroustalk

    I guess the Democrats don't care about the growing number of godless Americans. We only make up 13% of the voting population. Why aren't there any Secular Humanists speaking at the convention?

    September 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • counter

      The Pew research definition of the 12 pct is the following:
      The number of Americans who say they are atheist or agnostic, or choose not to identify with a religious tradition has increased modestly over the past two decades, with Pew surveys since the beginning of 2006, finding that 12% of U.S. adults identify themselves as secular or unaffiliated with a religious tradition;

      Most of these when asked may really believe in God but just don't go to church. They are not activist atheist nutcases like you.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  19. Rae Ann Pointer

    What ever happened to separation of church and state?

    September 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • penquin

      Exactly. Pandering to those who believe in whatever religion only reinforces their belief that religion belongs in the political arena.

      September 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • counter

      Obviously don't understand the separation clause. This is a political party convention. It's not part of the official government.

      Gosh, people have made the separation clause something is was never meant to be.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  20. Stevo

    Can someone please explain to me how Obama asks Harold & Kumar to work for his campaign, but at the same time truns up the prosecution on all medical pot dispensaries. He promised he would do the EXCACT opposite in his first election campaign. Yet he did the EXACT opposite of what he promised and now he's vying for the "stoner vote"? His hipocracy knows no bounds!!

    September 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
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About this blog

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.