The use of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible by Barack Obama

By Harry Hagopian
January 21, 2013

In a previous blog (, I noted the significant coincidence of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States with the second inauguration of President Barack Obama ('Obama, MLK and the dream of a better world').

There is of course another tangible connection, part of what I called the "faith-centred and challenging impact of this occasion", though it is one some have questioned strongly.

President Obama took the oath of office today on the two Bibles used by Abraham Lincoln and by Martin Luther King Jr., for the official part of the ceremony.

This was intended as a debt and tribute to two great figures of the American past. But Cornel West, who is a philosopher, critical social theorist, Baptist theologian and a star professor at Harvard, Princeton, and now Union Theological Seminary, has serious questions about this appropriation of the tradition in which MLK (and he) stands.

A supporter of Obama while being critical of some of his policies in office (including the incarceration of black people and Drone attacks, Professor West explains here why it bothers him ("makes my blood boil") that Obama decided to take the oath with MLK's Bible.

This five-minute YouTube clip was uploaded from C-Span by the controversial Moxnews:


© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor ( Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK), Ecumenical consultant to the Primate of Armenian Church in UK & Ireland, and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is Follow him on Twitter here: @harryhagopian

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