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 Wednesday.
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.
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.”
During Trump’s campaign, White told Politico that he believed “Mr. Trump has a relationship with God. He is a Christian, he accepts Jesus as his Lord and savior.”
“Paula White is not only a beautiful person both inside and out, she has a significant message to offer anyone who will tune in and pay attention,” Trump said in a message posted on her website. “She has amazing insight and the ability to deliver that message clearly as well as powerfully.”
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.