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National Prayer Breakfast: Despite Protests, Obama Attended. Why?

by David Badash on February 3, 2011

in Bigotry Watch,News,Politics,Religion

Post image for National Prayer Breakfast: Despite Protests, Obama Attended. Why?

President Obama spoke at this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast — a massive, annual meeting attended by over 3000 Congressmen, international dignitaries, and of course religious leaders and followers of the Christian faith — but why did he? And why did progressive Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Pryor (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Vice President Biden, among other Democrats, attend?

The National Prayer Breakfast is infamously sponsored by “The Family,” the Christianist, extremist group headquartered at C-Street, made famous by author Jeff Sharlet. The Family is directly tied to Uganda’s David Bahati and his “Kill The Gays” bill that is making its way through Uganda’s legislature.

Read: “UN Vote Allowing Gays To Be Executed Result Of Political, Religious Fundamentalism

The downright ugly and evil work associated with The Family, also known as “The Foundation,” demands everyone ask why any public servant would attend this event. If you listen to today’s Prayer Breakfast, you’ll hear the absolute shocking intermix of religion and politics, surely a flagrant violation of our founders’ belief in separation of church and state.

In a press release, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced it had “called on President Obama and all members of Congress not to attend this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.”

“The breakfast, while designed to appear as a government-sanctioned event, in reality serves as a meeting and recruiting event for the shadowy Fellowship Foundation.

“The National Prayer Breakfast uses the attendance of elected leaders to give the Fellowship greater credibility and facilitate its networking and fundraising,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “President Obama and members of Congress should not legitimatize this shadowy group with ties to scandal-ridden politicians and hateful and discriminatory positions against gays.”  Sloan continued, “It is all the more important that American political leaders avoid this event in light of the murder of prominent Ugandan gay activist David Kato.”

“The Fellowship, also known as “The Foundation” and “The Family,” is run by Doug Coe, a spiritual advisor to some government officials, who uses the organization to push his brand of Christianity. The Fellowship owns and operates the infamous C Street House, a congressional residence and meeting place on Capitol Hill that has been a frequent haunt of some ethically-challenged elected officials identified by CREW, including Sen. John Ensign (R-NV).

“The organization operates under an intense veil of secrecy, stays largely out of the public eye and hides its donors’ identities. The Fellowship has used its government clout to facilitate backdoor meetings between U.S. and foreign officials, improperly claimed tax exempt status for the C Street House, and has persuaded members of Congress, including Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to conduct Fellowship-sanctioned evangelizing while traveling at taxpayer expense.

“Members of the Fellowship pushed for anti-gay legislation in Uganda that made homosexuality a capital offense. Just last month, prominent activist David Kato was murdered in Uganda. Much of the wave of anti-gay sentiment can be linked to the promotion of anti-gay policies by American evangelicals.”

Read: “David Kato’s Death Result Of Hatred Planted By U.S. Evangelicals

Other protestoring organizations include GetEQUAL, which was instrumental in the fight for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. GetEQUAL lined up at 6:00 AM this morning, two hours ahead of the start of the Breakfast, with a reported sixty protestors, according to AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay, who was in attendance, to witness the attendees entering the Hilton, where the Breakfast was held. They named their protest the “Breakfast Without Bigotry.”

On the Facebook event for their Breakfast Without Bigotry protest, GetEQUAL writes,

“In the wake of the murder of Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, and the pending deportation of Brenda Namigadde from the UK back to Uganda, we believe it is imperative that “The Family” be exposed not only for their role as organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast, but for their relationship with many of our legislators and their influence on world affairs, including the annihilation of LGBT people worldwide.

“While its organizers would have you believe the National Prayer Breakfast is an ecumenical gathering absent a policy agenda, it is in fact the tentpole event of the year for the clandestine operation “The Family”. This fringe group uses the visibility and support from the National Prayer Breakfast (attended by many politicians and business leaders) and other events to further its world-wide campaign against gay folk. Associates of “The Family” continue to promote a proposed law that would imprison for life and murder LGBT people—just for being who they are—while also criminalizing knowing an LGBT person without reporting them.”

Michael Lavers, reporting from the protest, spoke with gay philanthropist Mitchell Gold, who said, “I’m here because two many of the people who are inside the National Prayer Breakfast don’t understand the harm they are doing by trafficking their religion-based bigotry.” Lavers says Gold “held a sign reading ’End the harm from religion based bigotry,’ and also said, “David Kato’s death shows the slippery slope of people who claim to interpret the Bible literally.”

So, why did Obama and other elected leaders attend?

First, tradition. And second, given the fact that “A Quarter Of Republicans Believe Obama Is The Anti-Christ,” and 20% of Americans think Obama is a Muslim, Obama cannot afford to skip such a large religious gathering.

Rubbing elbows with religious bigots, haters, and those directly tied to the anti-gay hate in Africa, evidently, is just part of the job of a politician. And a president who the right believes is a Muslim, cannot afford to skip Breakfast with Jesus.

If Obama’s attendance did one thing, it allowed the media and social media, to produce vast quantities of articles, reports, blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates that tie Obama to Christian religion and prayer.

Next year, perhaps we can at least make it politically less-advantageous to let our elected representatives attend this particular gathering of people who support anti-gay hate, and even, anti-gay murder.

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