Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 1 January/February 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Pastor in chief addresses prayer breakfast

President Barack Obama, like many presidents before him since 1953, delivered an address at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 3, attended by about 3,000 high-ranking political and religious leaders. The president’s speech included biblical passages and discussed his prayers and the path to “finding his Christian faith.”

The National Prayer Breakfast is organized by The Fellowship Foundation, also known as “The Family,” a secretive fundamentalist Christian group dragged into the spotlight by Jeff Sharlet in his books The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy. According to the Baptist Joint Committee, the Family seeks “to use the halls of government to promote Christianity around the world.”

The New York Times points out that the Family has been accused of having ties to Uganda legislation calling for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals.

The president said of the evangelical Christian National Prayer Breakfast: “It’s a tradition that I am proud to uphold, not only as a fellow believer but as an elected leader.”

It was through Obama’s early “experience working with pastors and laypeople trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods, that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself, and embrace him as my lord and savior,” he told the audience. The word “Jesus” not surprisingly garnered applause.

“Tom Coburn is here,” Obama said of the Republican senator and former Southern Baptist deacon from Oklahoma. “He is not only a dear friend but also a brother in Christ. We came into the Senate at the same time. Even though we are on opposite sides of a whole bunch of issues, part of what has bound us together is a shared faith, a recognition that we pray to and serve the same God.”

Does the president not also feel bound to those who do not believe in his god?

More from his speech:

• “And let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith. The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray. Abe Lincoln said, as many of you know, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’ ”

• “Fortunately, I’m not alone in my prayers. Pastor friends like Joel Hunter and T.D. Jakes come over to the Oval Office every once in a while to pray with me and pray for the nation. The chapel at Camp David has provided consistent respite and fellowship. The director of our Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership’s office, Joshua DuBois — a young minister himself — he starts my morning off with meditations from scripture.”

• “And through that office, we’re expanding the way faith groups can partner with our government. We’re helping them feed more kids who otherwise would go hungry. We’re helping fatherhood groups get dads the support they need to be there for their children. We’re working with nonprofits to improve the lives of people around the world. And we’re doing it in ways that are aligned with our constitutional principles. And in this work, we intend to expand it in the days ahead, rooted in the notions of partnership and justice and the imperatives to help the poor.”

• “As I travel across the country folks often ask me what is it that I pray for. And like most of you, my prayers sometimes are general: Lord, give me the strength to meet the challenges of my office. Sometimes they’re specific: Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance (laughter), where there will be boys. Lord, have that skirt get longer as she travels to that dance (laughter).”

Please contact the president via the White House comment line (202-456-1111) or Web contact form (whitehouse.gov/contact/) or by mail (below) to object to his inappropriate participation in the National Prayer Breakfast.

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

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