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FFRF leads organizational sign-on letter opposing the National Prayer Breakfast

Preying Hands Addis

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, joined by 30 secular and religious groups, has sent a letter to members of Congress and the White House today urging a boycott of the National Prayer Breakfast.

The event, held annually in the first week of February in Washington, D.C., is framed as a large bipartisan forum for political, social and business leaders to gather and pray together, but in reality is a nexus of Christian nationalist organizing.

“A coalition of religious and secular groups is calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to end their involvement with the National Prayer Breakfast, a private event used by its secretive sponsor to foster right-wing networking around the globe,” reports The Young Turks news portal, prominently citing the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s role in the effort.

The letter starts out, “On behalf of 30 religious, secular, and activist organizations and 10 religious and secular community leaders, and elected officials we are strongly encouraging you not to sponsor or attend the National Prayer Breakfast.” 

“The National Prayer Breakfast is controversial and shrouded in secrecy. It has become a nexus for religious extremism, infiltration by Russian agents, and organized bigotry (anti-LGBTQ and anti-labor),” it goes on to say. “The National Prayer Breakfast is an active marketplace of Christian nationalism, and it is not the bipartisan event that it purports to be.”

In an informational sheet on the National Prayer Breakfast, FFRF lists the myriad ways in which the event is problematic. This includes:

  • The FBI caught Maria Butina, an unregistered foreign agent with ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, using the event to illegally “back channel” with American officials who attended. Butina pleaded guilty and was convicted in 2018.
  • New records reveal that Franklin Graham is the primary financial backer of the event, which he admitted is meant to buy access: “They’re wanting to be able to rub elbows with somebody that they normally couldn’t rub elbows with.” Graham justified this by pointing to “the gays, they do everything they can to get their politicians into office.”
  • Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is baked into the event and its organizers. Recent stories have documented how the foreign officials who join the event are often virulently anti-LGBTQ.
  • The National Prayer Breakfast is run by the opaque Fellowship Foundation. The organization has had troubling relationships with dictators around the world, such as Gen. Suharto of Indonesia, Siad Barre of Somalia, Jonas Savimbi of Angola, Artur da Costa e Silva of Brazil, Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti and Putin.
  • The Fellowship Foundation was originally founded to oppose the New Deal, and the event is now the sole, public networking event for the group. The breakfast kicks off closed-door lobbying events. The event is becoming so political and troubling that even conservatives that ran the Moral Majority have argued that “It might be time to suspend the National Prayer Breakfast.”

FFRF is hoping to make this a reality in conjunction with a host of other organizations. The groups signing on to its letter range from the American Atheists and the American Humanist Association to the Auburn Theological Seminary and God Can Ministries UCC.

“We are so honored to stand with so many organizations, community leaders and elected officials who are taking a stand against the Prayer Breakfast and are exclaiming loudly and clearly to members of Congress, the president and the vice president, ‘No More!’” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president and co-founder of FFRF. “It is bewildering that champions of the separation of state and church such as Sens. Chris Coons and Kirsten Gillibrand would want to be associated with an event that has as its sponsoring organization a foundation with a proven track record of religious extremism, infiltration by Russian agents and bigotry.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 39,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

If you are an FFRF member, sign into your account here and then update your email subscriptions here.

To become an FFRF member, click here. To learn more about FFRF, request information here.

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