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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF celebrates Prayer Breakfast changes

FFRF is delighted that the pressure placed by FFRF and a broad coalition of civil rights, religious and secular organizations was able to alter the National Prayer Breakfast, which was held on Feb. 2.

For the first time in 70 years, since that first National Prayer Breakfast was called by the Fellowship Foundation (aka “The Family”) in 1953, the event’s attendees have distanced themselves from their original sponsor. A new group, the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, announced it was created for the sole purpose of putting on the annual breakfast, and for ethical reasons is separated from The Family.

But the separation between The Fellowship and this new version of the prayer breakfast appears to be a subterfuge, FFRF says, with members of Congress who are connected with The Fellowship still running the new group. 

FFRF’s basic concern remains: This is still an event involving the most powerful U.S. public officials endorsing religion. The president and members of Congress should not be at the beck and call of Christian groups summoning them to pray. They take an oath of office to defend our godless Constitution — a Constitution adopted without prayer at the Constitutional Convention, and which explicitly prohibits religious tests for public office. Yet, the National Prayer Breakfast has served as a de facto religious test, with members of Congress genuflecting before it out of fear of being perceived as impious. 

And in a truly lovely twist of the knife, the new foundation found it necessary to announce it had refused funding by the breakfast’s main funder in recent years: Rev. Franklin Graham. Graham had openly admitted to The New Yorker, “Everybody in that room has the same agenda. They’re wanting to be able to rub elbows with somebody that they normally couldn’t rub elbows with.” For Graham to hear “your money’s no good here” is music to our ears.

So is the fact that the Family, Rev. Graham and other white Christian nationalists behind the annual breakfast have become political hot potatoes, if not pariahs. This annual spectacle had kicked off scandal-ridden days of influence-peddling, rubbing shoulders with foreign despots and lobbying in Congress for reactionary and anti-LGBTQ policies far less benign than the vaunted togetherness of political pandering. 

Besides all that: Nothing fails like prayer, which is one of the mottos of FFRF, coined by its principal founder Anne Gaylor. Congress doesn’t need a prayer, it needs to double down to do what it takes an oath to do: Form a more perfect union, establish justice, promote the general welfare and “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” That’s a “hymn” even FFRF can get behind.

While it took far too long, decades of complaints by FFRF and others, plus all the investigative books, documentaries, and dogged reporting, finally got action. The secular movement can indeed celebrate.