Two preachers who teach that God will make the faithful rich are among the religious leaders chosen to offer prayers at President-elect Donald Trump's swearing-in, the inaugural committee said.
Prosperity gospel preachers Paula White, a friend of Trump's, and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, whose Detroit church hosted the Republican in September, will be among six faith leaders selected to participate in the Jan. 20 inauguration. It will be the first time preachers who spread the prosperity gospel will be included in the ceremony.
While the faith movement is widely popular, many Christians consider it heretical. Ministers in the tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence their teachings work. Trump had campaigned in part on his record as a wealthy real estate developer and businessman.
“I’d rather a Hindu pray on Inauguration Day and not risk the souls of men, than one whose heresy lures in souls with promises of comfort only to damn them in eternity,” wrote Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and Trump critic.
The Senate Finance Committee had investigated White and five other prosperity preachers over their spending, but the inquiry ended in 2011 with no penalty for the televangelists. White said in a statement that she will pray to God at the inaugural "that He would richly bless our extraordinary home, the United States of America."
Anthony Pinn, a Rice University religious studies professor, described the prosperity gospel "as a way to religiously rationalize material acquisition." He said participating in the inaugural gives the preachers a new kind of prominence.
"You've got millions of people who will see them perform," Pinn said. "There's a tremendous amount of benefit that goes along with that."
The four other religious leaders included in the inaugural are the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham; Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an evangelical group; and the Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which conducts education about the Holocaust and speaks out against anti-Semitism and bias.
The Wiesenthal Center had previously criticized Trump, accusing him of casting suspicion on all Muslims in his remarks on terrorism. Hier said in a phone interview Wednesday that while he would continue to speak out against bigotry, he supports Trump's approach to Israel. "I'm not in the camp of those who say we are now into the dark ages. I think the opposite - that America's best years are ahead of it," Hier said.
Graham, who rallied Christian voters around the country this year over the issue of appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court, has credited God for Trump's win over Hillary Clinton. Rodriguez, who had criticized Trump for his promises to deport millions of people in the country illegally, said Wednesday, "I have enjoyed getting to know President-elect Trump and his team." Rodriguez called participating in the inaugural "a patriotic honor" and "a sacred duty."
Dolan said in a statement he will be reading from Scripture at the inaugural and will ask God to "inspire and guide our new president."
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