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U.S. Elections

Part 1: Morning Worship Service | History of the Presidential Inauguration Day

On March 4, 1933, at 10:15 a.m., prior to his swearing-in ceremony, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor attended a church service at St. John's Episcopal Church, next to the White House. They did the same at Roosevelt's 1937 and 1941 Inaugurations, and arranged for a private service at the White House the morning of his fourth Inauguration on January 20, 1945. Roosevelt's Inauguration Day worship service set a precedent that has been followed by Presidents ever since.

Franklin Roosevelt was not the first President to attend church on Inauguration Day, however. In 1789, George Washington attended a service at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City immediately following his swearing-in ceremony. Although this feature of Washington's Inauguration did not set a precedent, religion still played a role in subsequent swearing-in ceremonies. Almost all Presidents since George Washington have placed their hand on a Bible when taking the oath of office. And all Presidents have included some reference to the Almighty in their Inaugural addresses (except George Washington's second address, which was only 135 words).

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Inauguration Day: John F. Kennedy Shakes hands with Father Richard J. Casey after attending Mass at Holy Trinity Church.
Inauguration Day: John F. Kennedy Shakes hands with Father Richard J. Casey after attending Mass at Holy Trinity Church.

   
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Source: U.S. Senate; Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC); magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20090118
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