The Freedom From Religion Foundation has written President Biden asking him to stop attending or endorsing the National Prayer Breakfast. Biden attended and spoke virtually at the event this year, held in February.
FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, earlier sent similar letters to members of Congress who have recently sponsored or attended the event.
“The breakfast is a pay-to-play political event with a troubling history,” write FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor in their letter to Biden. They note that the shadowy Fellowship Foundation, known as “The Family,” was originally founded to oppose the New Deal, and operates as the sole, public networking event for the secretive group. Its unsavory connection to world dictators and its agenda, often anti-democratic, have been exposed in a bestselling book and Netflix documentary.
Far from being a benign, ecumenical, non-partisan, non-denominational event, the annual breakfast is being used by individuals such as the anti-gay Rev. Franklin Graham, currently the primary financial backer, to buy influence. Notoriously, the FBI caught Maria Butina, an unregistered foreign agent with ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, using the event to illegally “backchannel” with American officials who attended. Butina pleaded guilty and was convicted in 2018. My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell credits his rise and relationship with former President Trump to being “picked out of 12 people to pray with Ben Carson in a room [at] the National Prayer Breakfast.”
“Russian spies, Christian nationalists and theocrats, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, influence-peddling, and a shadowy religious group known as ‘The Family,’” adds FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel. “This’s what the National Prayer Breakfast is today.”
Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is a long tradition for the event and its organizers. Recent stories have documented how the foreign officials who have joined the event are often less than official and sometimes virulently anti-LGBTQ. European LGBTQ groups like Forbidden Colours have objected to America shipping this Christian bigotry overseas. The event is becoming so political and troubling that even the conservatives that once ran the Moral Majority have argued, “It might be time to suspend the National Prayer Breakfast.”
At this year’s event, Biden’s speech included exclusionary religious clichés, such as “For so many in our nation, this is a dark, dark time. So where do we turn? Faith.”
“Mr. President, you represent a diverse population that consists not only of Christians, but also citizens with minority religious or nonreligious views,” write the FFRF co-presidents. “We understand that you turn to faith in dark times, and that is absolutely your prerogative. But many millions of good, law-abiding, tax-paying Americans who are not religious do not find solace in faith. Endorsing religious events and spreading religious messages in your official capacity alienates the 30 percent of Americans who are non-Christians, including the one in four citizens who is not religious.”
FFRF notes that for many years, the National Prayer Breakfast has been used like a “gotcha event,” in which presidents and members of Congress have felt constrained to attend for fear of appearing unfaithful. Now, FFRF warns, the real danger is that public officials will be tainted by their association with the prayer breakfast. “Given the sectarian religious nature, the National Prayer Breakfast is no place for our President and Commander in Chief,” FFRF concludes.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) with more than 35,000 members. It works to educate the public about nontheism and to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.