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.