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 in February.
FFRF 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.”
Salon.com reports that “Two European advocacy organizations warned this year that right-wing foes of LGBTQ and reproductive rights are using prayer breakfasts to advance their legislative and political agendas.”
The Salon story also reported: “Revelations by journalist Jeff Sharlet and others show a growing pattern of the National Prayer Breakfast functioning as a de facto convention for religious conservatives.”
“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.
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.