Why I’m Against the ‘National Prayer Breakfast’
I have something to say and I will try to keep this very brief, because I have no interest in giving this event any more attention than it already receives (world leaders, the US President, business heads, etc. — totaling 3,500 — already attend). In light of the book I recently took in while on my Christmas/New Years holiday, I believe that I need to raise questions of concern about and protest the National Prayer Breakfast.
So that I’m clear up front, I do not protest the idea of having a ‘prayer breakfast’ — although it does raise the eyebrows of those who understand the dual-clause constitutional amendment that governs church-state relations in this nation. What I protest, what I take serious issue with, is the organization that created and continues to sponsor the breakfast.
The book I’m talking about is an excellent and well-researched look into the organization called “The Fellowship Foundation,” but better known as “The Family.” The title of this text is C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy (Little, Brown & co., 2010), by Jeff Sharlet. This is the follow up book to his widely acclaimed The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper, 2009).
As I said above, I’m not going to subject you to all the particular details of The Family and their national and international involvement in some incredibly shady political and business dealings under the guise of “evangelism” and “Christian advocacy.” I’ll let you read the books — both well worth picking up.
Instead, I want to point out just one case, a very recent case, in which the organizers of the prayer breakfast (which is happening as I type this) have been directly involved:
The proposed Ugandan legislation to mandate the death penalty for homosexuals.
Just last weekend the news reached the world that David Kato, the prominent gay-rights activist in Uganda, was beaten to death by iron bars in response to his outspoken support of equality and human rights (see the AP story here). USA Today, like Jeff Sharlet, has tied the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast with the political and cultural leaders behind the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda as well as identified The Family’s behind-the-scenes support of the capital punishment legislation.
Cathleen Falsani of Religion News Service explains:
Some critics lay the blame for Kato’s murder squarely at the feet of three U.S. evangelicals who spoke at a three-day Kampala seminar in March 2009 that aimed to “expose the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda.”
More than a few critics claim the 2009 seminar was the catalyst for the legislation; Bahati attended the seminar, and his bill quickly gained momentum afterwards.
“David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” Val Kalende, a gay rights activist in Uganda, told The New York Times the day after Kato’s murder. “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.”
The three U.S. evangelical leaders who spoke at the Kampala anti-homosexuality seminar were Scott Lively, head of the conservative Christian group Defend the Family International and co-author of The Pink Swastika about the alleged gay cabal that orchestrated the Holocaust; Caleb Lee Brundridge, a self-proclaimed “former” gay man and “sexual reorientation coach” at the International Healing Foundation; and Don Schmierer, author of An Ounce of Prevention: Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today’s Youth.
You can read more about this yourself. Suffice it to say that, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Letter From the Birmingham Jail, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”! The legislation and current laws in Uganda are crimes against humanity to the highest degree. I write in solidarity with the protesters of the National Prayer Breakfast.
In my prayer today I know that Christ, whose name is invoked this morning in DC by perpetuators of some of the worst discrimination and human-rights violations, is standing with the GLBT men and women in Uganda and with all people who suffer persecution because of who they are. The reasons include race, gender, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and it must stop.