First on CNN: Obama picks D.C. Episcopal priest to deliver inauguration benediction
The Rev. Luis León walks with the first couple on January 20, 2009, the day of President Barack Obama's first inauguration.
January 15th, 2013
06:14 PM ET

First on CNN: Obama picks D.C. Episcopal priest to deliver inauguration benediction

By Lisa Desjardins and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The president has picked a neighbor to deliver the closing prayer at the inauguration.

The Rev. Luis León told CNN on Tuesday the White House and the Presidential Inaugural Committee invited him last week to deliver the closing prayer at the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

León pastors Saint John’s Church, an Episcopal parish just across Lafayette Park from the White House, dubbed the “Church of the Presidents.”

"I found out last week,” he told CNN in an interview on Tuesday.

A source close to the inaugural committee confirmed León would be delivering the benediction and said a formal announcement would be coming later in the week.

The historic church León has pastored since 1995 has been connected to every president since its founding in 1815. Inside the historic building, Pew 54 is reserved for presidents whenever they come to worship.

President Barack Obama and his family have worshiped at the church numerous times during his first term. They have visited the church more times than any other during his presidency, and the president and León are said to have a good relationship.

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León’s benediction will mark his second appearance on the inauguration stage. In 2005 he delivered the invocation for the President George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

"You don't get used to this. I'm just as nervous now as I was the first time,” León said. “From the moment someone asks you to do that, your wheels are spinning with what to say. So my wheels were spinning now."

León was the president’s second choice for the benediction.

The selection comes less than a week after Louie Giglio, an evangelical pastor from Atlanta, bowed out of the closing prayer after a sermon he delivered in the mid-1990s surfaced that critics called “vehemently anti-gay.” Giglio’s sermon has been defended by some socially conservative Christians as ardently as critics have opposed it. Giglio, known for his work in raising awareness of and combating global slavery, withdrew the morning after the sermon was posted by liberal advocacy website Think Progress. Giglio said in a letter to the White House and the inaugural committee, “it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda a focal point of the inauguration.”

CNN: Giglio bows out of inauguration over sermon on gays

After Giglio withdrew, a spokeswoman for the inaugural committee said they were "not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural."

“I don't mind being in the bullpen; relievers are very important," León said, smiling. He added, "I was delighted to be asked and honored to be asked."

León said it will be important for him to craft a prayer for the present time. He said he’s talking and listening closely to those around him for inspiration on what he will say when he steps up to the microphone.

“I think when we're asking a blessing for this country,” he said, “I think we're asking God to lift us up, to lift up what's good in us. To remind us of what's good in us and remind us to do what's proper, what's the good, the right thing for the country."

León, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born in Guantanamo, Cuba. He came the United States in 1961 at age of 11 as one of the "Peter Pan children.” At the time, many Cuban parents sent their children out of Cuba fearing Fidel Castro's regime would take them and put them in camps. León’s mother eventually joined them in the United States.

There are large issues facing his adoptive country, León said. "The thing that I think is on everyone's mind is, how are we going to work together? You know, everybody, after each election, talks about mandates. My perspective is the American people's mandate is to work it out. And somehow we need to be drawn together by that which binds us and not that which separates us. I think that's mostly on everybody's mind."

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León also said the president and the vice president will be attending a pre-inauguration service at Saint John’s on Monday morning.

The Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican tradition,  voted at their annual convention in July to approve the blessing of same-sex ceremonies. Such services are not considered marriage ceremonies, media affairs representative Nancy Davidge told CNN at the time.

"We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage," Davidge said. "A blessing is a theological response to a monogamous, committed relationship."

The move makes the church, with 2 million adherents, the largest U.S. denomination to sanction such ceremonies. Earlier this month the Washington National Cathedral announced it would begin hosting such ceremonies immediately following the implementation of a Maryland law allowing same-sex marriage.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Episcopal • Politics

soundoff (326 Responses)
  1. Douglas

    Why the trend toward celibacy in gay enclaves?

    At our community forum last week, one of our celibate lesbian facilitators
    took questions from the floor and explained her transformation from fornication
    to celibacy.

    Amber explained that it was not an easy decision having been acculturated in a fast paced
    LGB world of multiple partners and one night stands. The ride on the merry go round had a price
    and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

    Amber's life changed when she jettisoned fornication and came out as celibate and found faith through the Bible.

    This is just one person...and their remarkable story...more to come.

    January 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Gir

      ONE PERSON indicates a trend?

      How many times do you need to be bashed over the head with a bible to think like this?

      January 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Doogie thinks kilts are a 'trend'.

      January 19, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  2. ???????

    Reviewing the comments noticed someting interesting. Science PROVED it does not work the way the bible said it did !!!
    All the facts are here on this tread. Peer reviewed !!!

    January 18, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  3. capitalist

    Keep religion out of government please else your descendants will be living under sharia in the future.

    January 18, 2013 at 12:11 am |
  4. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.

    Instead, to suit their own desires,
    they will gather around them a great number of teachers
    to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
    2 Timothy 4:3-4

    January 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      Myths, like Christianity?

      January 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • End Religion

      ...or rather, the fables Christianity is based on?

      January 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • niknak

      Will you people just succeed already?!?
      Take your backward state, and your backward mentality and form your own nation of morons.
      I will even come down and help you pack.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Douglas

      Excellent analysis!

      The sodomites have condemned themselves unless they repent from the sin of fornication.

      The glorification of fornication has a price.

      AIDS is skyrocketing again in gay enclaves throughout the nation.

      Reach out to gays at your place of worship and let them know that when they abandon fornication and choose
      celibacy, their lives will turn for the better.

      With God it can be done!

      January 18, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, Douglas. I feel sorry for you. It must be painful to hate yourself so much.

      January 18, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  5. Fed Up

    Is it a double sin to lie while taking an oath with two bibles?

    January 17, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Jack Novak

      Are we sure they are Bibles?? or are they korans??

      January 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  6. Fed Up

    Obama will be sworn in using 2 bibles at the inauguration. One being Abraham Lincolns and the other Martin Luther Kings. Odd as he has absolutely nothing in common with either man.

    January 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Fed Up

      You said, "Obama will be sworn in using 2 bibles at the inauguration. One being Abraham Lincolns and the other Martin Luther Kings. Odd as he has absolutely nothing in common with either man."
      He probably uses bibles to appease the christian dimwits that still run rampant in this country. The sane part of society probably recognizes the smoke and mirrors for what they are.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  7. John the Historian

    I still don't know whether Willard has gone to Nauvoo, Illinois or Independence, Missouri ??? Does anyone know the answer. Does the book of mormon now add a sequel about square boats going to Israel to take Willard and family acroos the Atlantic ? Do all the American Indians get to go ? Help I can't find the planet kolob on my celestial map !!!!!

    January 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Really??

      Third star to the right, straight on 'til morning.
      You probably would know it by its other name, neverland (not the M. Jackson version)

      January 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  8. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Obama picks D.C. Episcopal priest to deliver inauguration benediction

    Allahu Akbar !!!
    Please be seated.

    January 17, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • More like

      Redneck in the heart of the Bible belt.

      January 17, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • tallulah13

      Admiral Ackbar.

      January 18, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  9. Douglas

    Good News!

    Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism are firewalled against gay marriage
    and acceptance of gay coitus.

    These faiths form a morality firewall against the siege of sin sweeping acroos the nation like prairie fire.

    Thank you Orthodox Christians, Jews and Moslems for remaining steadfast agaisnt sin.

    January 17, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • midwest rail

      Good news. The majority of rational humans recognize your obsession.

      January 17, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  10. Reality

    What the pastor should say but of course will not because he suffers from the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in his religion:-->>>

    (Only for the inauguration attendees, viewers and new members of this blog)

    The Apostles' / Agnostics’ Creed/Benediction/Prayer 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I 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?????

    I 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 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.)

    January 17, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  11. Truly

    I've been online arguing with posters just for the sake of arguing.

    Also I had to look up "benediction" in the dictionary. I wish they had just said "prayer".

    January 17, 2013 at 6:35 am |
  12. Regarding the orientation debate

    Biological factors which may be related to the development of orientation include genes, prenatal hormones, and brain structure.

    January 17, 2013 at 6:11 am |
  13. Lindsey Brutus

    Of Obama he has to pick someone who supports the gay agenda! He can't think for himself on this issue! His kids direct him! What kind of a president lets his kids determine his values?

    January 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So you know his children? You certainly didn't meet them at Sidwell Friends.

      Are you really that stupid?

      January 16, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Where does it say anything like what you're saying? And btw I think his kids are old enough and smart enough to have their own opinions.

      January 16, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Of Obama he has to pick someone who supports the gay agenda!"

      What agenda is that, equal rights?

      "He can't think for himself on this issue!"

      What makes you think this?

      "What kind of a president lets his kids determine his values?"

      What kind of person needs a book to determine his or her values?

      January 17, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  14. Douglas

    LGBTQ need support as they transition from fornication to celibacy.

    Pray for them at your place of worship.

    Reach out and let them know that they are not alone in their journey.

    Through prayer they will be made whole again.

    January 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      January 16, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • sam stone

      How confining IS that closet, Doogie?

      January 17, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • End Religion

      Doug, just admit you enjoy smuggling corn cob. You can now enjoy a full life with the man of your dreams, dancing the Salami Mambo all night long.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  15. biblestudyspacecom

    They found a person who call's him self a man of God, and does follow the word of God. What a joke, what is a Christian who does follow the doctrines of the Bible, one of many Anti Christ who follow after man made doctrines. He can deliver inauguration benediction to another Antichrist, everyone understands.

    January 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      How cute. Another intolerant zealot, only this one links to a site where the christian persecution complex has gone into overdrive.
      Is this just another sock puppet? Taking all bets! Giving 3 to 1 odds on a new troll!

      January 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • sam stone

      "They found a person who call's him self a man of God"

      1. there is no apostrophe in the word "calls"
      2. "himself" is one word

      January 17, 2013 at 7:20 am |
  16. niknak

    Why do we even have to have this stupid prayer?
    We got rid of prayer in schools, thank jeebus, but we still have to endure this useless waste of time?

    January 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Time wasting

      To put it in perspective everything is a waste of time. Television, movies, fashion, celebrity scandals not to mention our entire lives in two hundred years time won't matter so what's the big deal now?

      January 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Gir

      Our lives matter in THIS time frame. Religion does not.

      January 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • Time wasting

      Gir, your life matters as much as you think it does. Religion matters as much as people think it does. Why not attack "other" time wasters. Every played a video game? How about posting on line right now? Time wasters. It's what man does.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:35 am |
  17. ounbbl

    Episcopal – best choice for Gay President of America. Their prayer will be no better than gibberish tongue-speaking. God will not hear any of their noise.

    January 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You're seeing a whole team of therapists, aren't you ?

      January 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • sam stone

      another pompous fvck who claims to know the mind of god

      January 17, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  18. Milton


    January 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  19. RudyG

    Episcopal?? When did BO become Episcopal? Ahhh, I see. The priest is Hispanic! Playing politics even with religion, huh BO?? Where's Reverend Wright, you hypocrite??

    January 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • midwest rail

      George W, Bush was an active Methodist when he chose this same minister. Did you complain then ?

      January 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Sarah Smyles

      Oh, shut up, Rudy, you flipping dork.

      January 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • sam stone

      Right, Rudy....no politician has ever mixed religion and politics

      January 17, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  20. John the Historian

    The planet kolob awaits Willard.

    January 16, 2013 at 4:32 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.