National Prayer Breakfast controversy – again. And where are the Jews?

Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast and President Obama’s planned participation are generating the usual controversies centering on the question of whether top political leaders should attend an event sponsored by a super-secretive Christian group, The Fellowship Foundation, also know as The Family.

In the past, much of that controversy has centered on the impression the group conveys that this is more or less an official congressional event – it isn’t – and that it is somehow nonsectarian – it is only if you consider an overt and overwhelming focus on Jesus as nonsectarian.

Still, presidents and top lawmakers from both parties apparently fear not attending and being labeled anti-religious more than they fear giving at least an indirect boost to a secretive group whose goals and operations aren’t exactly public.

This week the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote to the president and top Congressional leaders asking them not to attend, arguing that the Fellowship is an “unorthodox organization” operating “under a veil of secrecy concealing the sources of its funding, its financial holdings and its political goals.”

CREW also wrote that “The National Prayer Breakfast is the Fellowship’s marquee event. This large-scale function serves as a recruiting tool for the group, but it is often misconstrued by attendees as an official government event – a perception reinforced by frequent presidential addresses a the breakfast, presidential seals strategically placed around the room and an organizing committee made up of members of Congress.”

Mark Silk, who heads the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, focused on another aspect of this year’s event – the Fellowship’s alleged ties to activists working for a draconian anti-homosexuality law in Uganda.

In his Spiritual Politics blog, Silk talks about initial claims that the author of that law would be present at this year’s event,  at the invitation of The Fellowship.

Now it appears David Bahati, the author of a proposed law that would criminalize homosexual behavior and maybe even make it a capital crime WON’T be there, but Silk argues: “Obama shouldn’t let them off it. Uganda is moving towards criminalizing homosexuality up to and still possibly including the death penalty, while the Obama administration is proposing full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the U.S. military. How about using the podium to ask which approach Jesus would have preferred, Mr. President? 

Then, in a later blog Silk gets into the question of  the Fellowship itself. He concludes:

“The larger question is whether The Family needs to [come] out of the shadows, explain its role in Uganda and elsewhere around the globe, and join the world in which NGOs make their purposes and activities clear. The answer is yes.”

Where are Jewish “defense” organizations on the National Prayer Breakfast issue? 

Where they usually are on the perennial issue. How do you spell “A*W*O*L?”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.