Spiritual rites part of nation’s tradition during inauguration ceremony; special Bibles,faith part of day


While there is separation of church and state when it comes to governance, spiritual ceremony is a tradition in state events. Such is the case with inaugural pomp and circumstance. The inauguration has a theme: “Faith in America’s Future,” though that’s not directly tied to religious faith.

Officeholders typically use Bibles to swear their oaths. Vice President Joe Biden will use his family’s Bible, which he has used for all of his swearings-in.

To take the oath, President Obama plans to use the Bible of his mother-in-law, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, who received it as a gift from her husband, Fraser Robinson III, on Mother’s Day in 1958. For the inaugural ceremony at the Capitol, Mr. Obama will use two Bibles: one used by President Lincoln, which Mr. Obama also used to take the oath for his first inauguration in 2009, and the other the Bible that Martin Luther King, Jr., used in his travels, which dovetails with the observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday.

The inauguration ceremony will include music by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, which is scheduled to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and a new song, “Let Your Kingdom Come.”

Opening and closing prayers are planned for the inauguration ceremony as well. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in 1963, is to deliver the invocation and the Rev. Luis Leon, rector of a church Mr. Obama sometimes attends, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square across from the White House, is to give the benediction.

The inaugural presidential luncheon on Monday will begin with an invocation by the Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza, a Philadelphia-based evangelical organization, and close with a benediction by Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodix Church in America.