National Prayer Breakfast scorns the Constitution, FFRF contends

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Tomorrow, Feb. 6, the Washington establishment, with President Trump leading the way, will once again flout constitutional principles at a gala prayer event in the nation’s capital.

“The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual gathering in Washington, D.C., that draws 3,500 people from all over the world,” the organizer’s website proclaims. “During this event, the President of the United States, representatives from more than 120 nations, leaders from all areas of the United States government, and individuals from various walks of life come together.”

The U.S. government’s role in arranging the get-together has always been less than transparent. Although the National Prayer Breakfast is technically sponsored by the private Fellowship Foundation, which is dedicated to “the teachings and precepts of Jesus,” the nation’s lawmaking body plays a key role. “The U.S. Congress hosts the National Prayer Breakfast, and the Christian organization, The Fellowship Foundation, organizes the event on their behalf,” a website revealed for the 2017 event.

The Fellowship (also known as “The Family”), which puts together the jamboree, is the subject of an acclaimed recent Netflix series based on an investigative book by journalist Jeff Sharlet, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, who spoke at FFRF’s annual convention last year. His work has revealed that the annual breakfast is the outward face of a rather sinister evangelical organization.

“The enduring power of this movement, I believe, and not just the Family but Christian Nationalism writ large, is its ability to simultaneously be both cynical and naive,” Sharlet remarked during an appearance on FFRF’s “Freethought Matters” TV show. “One or the other, you can knock it out easily. Both, it has a force that carries it forward.”

The event has long been, sadly, bipartisan but concerns raised by LGBTQ groups and others have finally caused a number of prominent Democrats to back away.

“Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar and several other Democrats will not be hosting this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, according to copies of the invitation posted on social media and authenticated by the event’s sponsor,” says a recent media report. “In the past, Klobuchar has been more than a name on the letterhead. In 2017 — when the Family facilitated Russian attendance — it was Klobuchar who delivered the closing prayer. She spoke at the event as long ago as 2008 and tweeted as recently as this summer about having co-chaired it.”

The “Russian attendance” reference reveals another problem with the annual bash. “On the guest list in recent years was [convicted Russian agent] Maria Butina, looking to meet high-level American officials and advance the interests of the Russian state, and Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukranian opposition leader, seeking a few minutes with President Trump to burnish her credentials as a presidential prospect back home,” the New York Times reported a couple of years ago.

Even if the Democratic Party is distancing itself from the National Prayer Breakfast, the president seems unwavering in his support. In addition to marginalizing nonbelievers, FFRF contends, the presence of the nation’s commander in chief (and so many top legislators) at a shindig organized by such a cultish organization makes it appear as if the U.S. government endorses a fringe movement within one particular religion. The National Prayer Breakfast makes a mockery of our secular Constitution and serves to undermine our political system, as well.

“It’s time for other members of Congress who attend this prayer breakfast, in order to pander to religious constituents, to follow in the footsteps of prominent politicians boycotting this disturbing event,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog organization with more than 30,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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