Atheists Oppose Obama’s Appearance at National Prayer Breakfast

Last year, when President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, he gave a shout-out to Secular Americans:

There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next — and some subscribe to no faith at all.

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule — the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

Yeah, it’s not a lot, but it was something.

Obama is back at the breakfast this morning and the focus is on the breakfast organizers, The Family, the conservative Christian group that has been all over the news the past year for its close ties with people like Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford, among others. Not to mention they played a role in the recent kill-the-gays bill in Uganda.

Some atheist/Humanist groups are speaking out against Obama’s participation in the event — and not just for the usual reasons:

“These recent revelations place the breakfast in an entirely new and harsh light. As president, Thomas Jefferson refused to sanction official prayer days,” said Secular Coalition [for America] Executive Director Sean Faircloth. “In contrast, President Obama’s participation in the Fellowship’s National Prayer Breakfast, along with the invitation of (and Bible reading by) Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, gives the breakfast the appearance of an officially sanctioned government ceremony, implying an endorsement of a particular religious agenda.” Added Faircloth, “Just as he wisely opted out of ceremonies surrounding the National Day of Prayer in May of last year, the president should not participate in the National Prayer Breakfast, making clear that he believes in a definitive separation between church and state.”

“We’re urging President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, and other key political figures to boycott the event,” said [American Atheists president Ed] Buckner. “The Family’ is a secret manipulative group that some are describing as a ‘cult’ which tries to conceal its political influence, financial holdings and public policy initiatives. Our President, who has championed transparency and openness in government, should avoid participating and endorsing events staged by this ‘religious lobby.’ ”

The U.S. Constitution provides for a Commander in Chief, not a Pastor in Chief. It is time for the U.S. President and members of Congress to boycott the National Prayer Breakfast and cleanly break with the scandal-ridden Fellowship Foundation, an incubator of religious-right policies. Prayer and religious ritual ought to be a private matter, not a political litmus test. — Freedom From Religion Foundation (PDF)

I want to hear Obama defend what he’s doing by attending this event (the “tradition” line is not a valid reason) or blast Christian Right groups for their awful social policies right in front of them.

Let’s see him support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when he speaks to this audience. Let him say he support a strong and sturdy wall separating church and state (though that would be ironic…). Let him put all religions and no religion on equal footing — nothing would piss this crowd off more.

  • donald

    You, me, and everyone was waiting for this and knew this would happen. We didn’t expect anything less. Sign and share the Darwin Day Petition. Let Obama know the people recognize Charles Darwin as a hero and one of the greatest minds in the fight for science on his 200 year anniversary

  • Heidi

    Yikes! Why would anybody want to be associated with such an extremist group?

  • http://www.jdanielclements.com Daniel

    The answer to Heidi’s question: power. This group wields a LOT of it. It is all about power.

  • Neon Genesis

    Rachel Maddow also criticized Obama if he attends it and she blasted the National Prayer Breakfast for being an insult to the separation of church and state: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RewINpvis2M It’s so refreshing to hear mainstream news media defending the separation of church and state for a change.

  • Heidi

    Evil power. :-( Religion is its own Beast.

    Yay, Rachel!

  • mkb

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has called for C-Span to not televise the breakfast. http://www.citizensforethics.org/
    We should to.

  • http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/ Steve Caldwell

    I don’t know if anyone has seen this news coverage about the prayer breakfast:

    Obama condemns Uganda anti-gay bill as ‘odious’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8498836.stm

    Here’s a quote from the BBC article:

    “We may disagree about gay marriage,” Mr Obama told the annual National Prayer Breakfast, “but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it is here in the United States or… more extremely, in odious laws that are being proposed more recently in Uganda.”

    It was good to see President Obama criticize the Ugandan law in front of an Evangelical Christian crowd.

  • Richard Wade

    So we have the National Day of Prayer, and the National Prayer Breakfast.

    I guess we’ll soon have the National Night of Prayer, the National Morning of Prayer, the National Afternoon of Prayer, the National Prayer Lunch, the National Prayer Dinner, and the National Prayer Midnight Snack.

    With all these holy meals, we’re gonna need the National Prayer Go On A Diet.

  • Karen

    He is the president to all Americans and most Americans are Christian. And he is, or claims to be, a Christian. I would imagine that it’s an honor for him, and it’s also tradition. He seems to see the importance in this ritual, I can honor that, and he can do more to unite people by being “agreeable,” not being an a-hole.

    We ought to listen before we report.

    What he’s chosen to do seems the Friendly-est route.

  • Heidi

    He is the president to all Americans and most Americans are Christian.

    And the largest racial group in America is white people. Should he go to a “Hooray, White People!” breakfast, too?

    he can do more to unite people by being “agreeable,” not being an a-hole.

    Why is not attending a controversial far-right group’s fundraiser breakfast an a-holish thing to do?

  • muggle

    Karen, what Heidi said. If you watch the Rachel Maddow clip, the woman from CREW said it all — would he attend a Klan meeting for good grace.

    While I’m glad he used the platform to speak out against the Ugandan law and recognize that took some courage in that forum, I think it would have been even more effective if he had made a televised announcement declining to attend and giving this and separation of church and state as the reasons why he was declining.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/Godless_Monsters Godless Monster

    I’m throwing in with Muggle and Heidi. We need to stop making excuses for Obama and his ilk and hold them accountable. He espoused certain ideals and he should live up to them. Period.


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