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Obama's Pick for
Benediction Overshadowed by Warren

Obama's Pick for
Benediction Overshadowed by Warren

While Barack Obama's choice of conservative California pastor Rick Warren to give his inauguration's opening prayer has received widespread criticism from progressives, his selection of civil rights icon Reverend Joseph Lowery to offer the closing prayer has been rather overshadowed.

While Barack Obama's choice of conservative California pastor Rick Warren to give his inauguration's opening prayer has received widespread criticism from progressives, his selection of civil rights icon Reverend Joseph Lowery to offer the closing prayer has been rather overshadowed.

The 87-year-old Methodist minister cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was the organization's third president, after Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm very grateful. I'm humbled and honored," Lowery told the Associated Press on Friday. "When we worked on the Voting Rights Act in the '60s, we hoped and felt that one day there would be an African-American president. I honestly can say I didn't think I'd live long enough to see it."

According to Affirmation, the United Methodists' LGBT contingent, Lowery has a strong pro-gay record, including a stirring speech in 2000 to gay clergy stressing the need to expand work for social justice and equality. In 2004, Lowery told ABC News that he supports same-sex marriage.

"When you talk about the law discriminating, the law granting a privilege here and a right here and denying it there, that's a civil rights issue," he said in 2004, according to USA Today. "And I can't take that away from anybody."

Lowery was a key participant in the 1965 Selma-Montgomery march, leading a delegation of marchers to pro-segregation Alabama governor George Wallace. He was also a coordinator for the Montgomery bus boycotts of the 1950s.

In 2006, at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, with President George W. Bush in the pews, Lowery spoke of ending poverty in the United States and ending the war in Iraq. During funeral services for Rosa Parks in 2005, Lowery cornered Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to urge her to join his career-long fight to expand the federal Voting Rights Act, according to TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lowery retired in 1992 from the Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta but remains active in civil rights and politics. He campaigned for Obama in several states, including Iowa and Mississippi, as the chief of Obama's voting rights advisory board. (Michelle Garcia, Advocate.com)

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