On two Bibles, one formerly belonging to President Abraham Lincoln, the other to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


NO VERSES.  Unlike the seven most recent residents of the White House, President Obama has not selected a Scripture verse which he likes, and upon which he will base his presidency.  He will place his hand on the stack of closed bibles, but will not read the words which they contain.

In contrast, when Abraham Lincoln swore on that velvet Bible, he placed his hand on three favorite verses:  Matthew 7:1 and 18:7, and Revelation 16:7.  Those verses are:

Mt 7:1  Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Mt 18:7  Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Rev 16:7  And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”…


And here’s just a peek at some of the verses chosen by earlier presidents as they began their terms of office.  All verses, regardless of the original translation used, are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

George W. Bush had his family bible opened to Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

William J. Clinton used a King James Bible which had been given to him by his grandmother.  For his first inauguration in 1993, it was opened to Galatians 6:8

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Four years later, for his second inauguration, Clinton used the same treasured bible but rested his hand on Isaiah 58:12

“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

And so on. Point well taken that this president went for the symbolism over substance of those Bibles and the men who owned them, though one can hope and pray that in his heart he tries to carry on their tradition of struggling for equality and freedom for all human beings, protection in law, and dignity conferred by God.

His inaugural address was lacking in direction and substance, say even moderate or some liberal pundits who analyzed it all. Not a lot to analyze, but this New York Times piece was interesting, starting with the headline they put on it when it first posted online. Suspecting it would change, I noted it early: “Obama Sets Goal to Broaden Equality.” But he stopped short of full equality, and distorted what that even means.

Mr. Obama went out of his way to mention both gay rights and the need to address climate change in a speech that seemed intended to assert his authority over his political rivals and to define his version of modern liberalism after voters returned him to office for a second term.

Yes, it did seem that.

The president’s second inaugural speech was more forceful than his first, putting the nation’s voters and the political establishment on notice that he intends to use his remaining time in office to push for the America he envisions.

“On notice” is well put.

Mr. Obama honored Dr. King, recalling the time he proclaimed that “our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.”

But the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King included every human being born and unborn, his niece Dr. Alveda King reminded me in an interview today.

Mr. Obama made a point to single out gay Americans — the first time that a president has said the word “gay” in an Inaugural Address — comparing their struggle for equality to the fights that African-Americans have waged. Having offered his support last year for same-sex marriage after years of opposition, Mr. Obama used his inaugural speech to embrace the idea that there should be marriage equality.

“Marriage equality” is political terminology that does no justice to the truth being debated in this country about human rights and the recognition of marriage in law and the state’s interest in marriage.

But that reference sure got a lot of headlines. Like this one in ABC News.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama said in his address on the Capitol steps after his swearing in…

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” Obama said.

Mr. Obama should read the Rev. Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech to which he refers.

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The first among these is life, ordered by “the architects of our republic” in their “magnificent words” for a reason.

Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

Born and unborn. Otherwise, you are redefining “all.”

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity…

And the ultimate such violation is abortion, which this president supports more than any other in American history.

It is inconsistent and intellectually dishonest and unbefitting the office of the presidency of the United States. Especially one who swears on a stack of Bibles, once owned by great leaders and defenders of human rights.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....