Was The Inaugural Prayer a Dig at Michael Newdow?

As regular readers of this blog have surmised, I am in favor of maintaining the great tradition in this country of giving thanks to God at public functions for the benefits he has bestowed upon us. I think it is a very minor infringement upon the liberties of those who don't want to hear it in recognition of the fact that the vast majority of the country is religious.

The Reverend Michael Newdow (and I use the term "reverend" with a smirk on my face for reasons I detail here) has been the main engine for attacks on the public recognition of God. He has twice filed lawsuits seeking to ban "under God" from the pledge of allegiance, and has recently lost his second bid in court to ban the public prayer at Bush's inauguration ceremonies (he apparently tried to ban the prayer at the 2000 swearing in ceremony).

As I listened to the prayer, I wondered whether the Rev. Luis Leon, the Episcopal minister who gave the prayer, intended to take a subtle swipe at Newdow. During the early part of the prayer, he intoned that we were "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Yes, he combined the prayer with the tail end of the pledge of allegiance. Newdow must have had steam coming out of his ears (assuming he was listening and not sitting in the corner pouting).

Okay, quoting the pledge once could have been an oversight, but then, towards the end of the prayer, the minister said it again: we are "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Twice in the same prayer, he quoted from the Pledge of Allegiance--the part that Newdow is suing to remove!! (I have to admit that I let out a guffaw when I heard it.)

I have mixed feelings about this. I think that a prayer to God should not be used to slap someone in the face. If Rev. Leon intentionally included the refence to chide Newdow, then I think that it was inappropriate and I would urge him not to use prayer as a tool against people with whom he may disagree in the future.

However, if it wasn't an intentional slap at Newdow, and instead Rev. Leon wrote what he felt to be right under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit without consciously realizing what he was doing, then it appears that God was taking a dig at Newdow through the "unintended" consequence of the prayer. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?


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