This year’s National Prayer Breakfast will occur tomorrow, Thursday, February 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. Every year it draws invited members of Congress, the Administration, influential business and religious leaders. It is billed as an ecumenical gathering that reaches out to a wide variety of faith traditions. As AlterNet found out when it requested media access, the event is private, by invitation only and excludes Muslims, Jews and, presumably, anyone else whose views differ from those of the sponsors.
This pointedly narrow-minded Christian gathering is closed to most religious faiths and denominations in the United States. Accompanying the breakfast is a week-long lobbying festival on Capitol Hill, during which Family members pointedly push their agenda as the only acceptable American positions and policies. Thus, it appears to me that, whenever members of Congress or the Administration attend the breakfast they are sending a silent message that the Separation of Church and State doctrine is empty and meaningless.
President Eisenhower attended for the first time in 1953, and the sitting president has attended every year since. In keeping with that tradition, President Obama is planning on attending. There are compelling reasons why he should skip the breakfast, thereby breaking the 57 year long tradition. Then he would be wise to use his absence to more forcefully speak out against the pending Ugandan law criminalizing homosexuality and the advocacy of gay rights. This law provides for imposition of the death penalty for some “offenses.” Reportedly this law was written, and promoted in the Ugandan Parliament by legislators who are affiliated with, if not actual members of, The Family.
I also must question the ethical propriety of any Administration or Congressional member to openly attend this private event. The organizers, usually known as The Family is hugely secretive, particularly when it comes to revealing the names of members, or any details about its finances. Also, in a statement released earlier this week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) noted that the organization’s head, Doug Coe, has praised the organizing abilities of Hitler and Bin Ladin.
Given that The Family obviously does not believe in freedom of speech, of association, of the press, or of religion, is it ethical for those who swore to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” before taking office to attend anyway? Is it appropriate for Administration and Congressional officials to attend an event overseen by one who praises an avowed enemy of the United States?