President Barack Obama Thursday morning will attend the 61st annual National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, a radically conservative religious right evangelical organization known to many as “The Family.” Members and associates of The Family have been tied to legislation in Uganda, known as the “Kill The Gays” bill of 2009, that mandates the death penalty for the “crime” of being gay.
Members of The Family, past and present, include current and former Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, John Thune, John Ensign, and Strom Thurmond. Other members of The Family include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, the late Chuck Colson (of Watergate and Manhattan Declaration fame,) disgraced former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and disgraced former Congressman Chip Pickering.
Members of the Fellowship Foundation, aka, The Family, have been closely linked to the rise in anti-gay hate in Uganda. Popular author Jeff Sharlet has written several books tying the group to religious anti-gay hate.
“The National Prayer Breakfast’s organizer, the Fellowship Foundation, has historically held conservative evangelical positions, and was linked to legislation in Uganda that would make being gay a capital offense,” Time Magazine’s Elizabeth Dias writes today:
The Breakfast is not a White House sponsored event—the National Prayer Breakfast leadership and Congressional offices handle the invitations, and the President just comes to speak. But this relationship has drawn criticism from marriage equality advocates in recent years. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent letters to Congressional leaders urging them to boycott the breakfast in 2010, and that same year gay rights activists organized competing prayer events in 17 cities. Last year, Occupy the Faith held a countering “People’s Prayer Breakfast” with gay rights groups.
The controversy over the breakfast organizers is a perennial one, but this year protests are scarce. Get Equal, co-sponsor of last year’s People’s breakfast, expects to release a statement and focus instead on countering anti-gay legislation in Uganda. CREW did not send letters, but executive director Melanie Sloan did tell TIME that they still urge lawmakers to boycott the event. Overall, the urgency appears mitigated.
Late last year, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, tied American evangelical leaders and at least one anti-gay hate group leader to the Ugandan Kill The Gays bill. Whether or not they’re tied to The Family, they’ll likely be at the National Prayer Breakfast. HRC called out Pastors Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, T.D.Jakes, and others, tying them to Uganda:
HRC has called on American faith leaders to reach out to their influential friends and colleagues in Uganda to urge them to condemn the bill and work to halt consideration. American Christian faith leaders have been active in Uganda for decades and have significant ties to Ugandan political leaders and faith leaders. Such influential American faith leaders, including Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and voices from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have a moral obligation to urge their Ugandan friends and allies to condemn the bill.
President Obama no doubt is in a precarious position. Every president since Eisenhower has attended.
Of course, there’s always a good time to break tradition.
Better yet, the President Thursday morning can use his presence to clearly and forthrightly challenge the expected 3500 religious and political leaders to practice what they preach: God’s love — real love, not their bastardized, twisted definition of it — and stop their anti-gay hate.
Image: President Barack Obama speaking at the 2009 National Prayer Breakfast, via Wikimedia
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