FFRF Action Fund, the legislative arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, condemns the introduction of a congressional bill to authorize use of the Capitol rotunda as a venue for the National Prayer Breakfast.
House Concurrent Resolution 79, authored by Tracey Mann, R-Kan., and co-sponsored by Frank Mrvan, D-Ind., seeks to have the Capitol host the Christian National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 1 this year. The National Prayer Breakfast, long the center of controversy, is a private event during which deep-pocketed Christian lobbyists are given unprecedented access to elected officials. After supposed reforms were announced to separate Congress from the prayer event, these lawmakers are seeking to entangle the government even more deeply with the Christian nationalist event.
The event, which has a history of scandal and political intrigue, including hosting Russian operatives and dictators, has undergone an attempted PR facelift in recent years. 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 separated itself from the original sponsors of the event. No surprise, its board members all happen to be acolytes of The Fellowship (the original founders) and its stated purpose is still to promote “the spirit of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.”
The Capitol rotunda is a symbol of our nation’s democracy. As such, it should be a space where all citizens and members of Congress feel equally represented and respected. An event that is put on to cater to Christians (even if occasionally inviting token non-Christian believers) and has a history of hosting unsavory characters alienates the many citizens who believe in the constitutional separation between religion and state, as well as those who do not adhere to religion. The “Nones” (religiously unaffiliated) are now almost one-third of the adult population, yet 88 percent of members of Congress identify as Christian and only one officially identifies as unaffiliated. Congress needs to reflect and catch up with the changing demographics. One bright spot is the growing Congressional Freethought Caucus, headed by Reps. Jared Huffman and Jamie Raskin.
“Conducting a ‘National Prayer Breakfast’ at the conspicuous seat of federal government is what would be expected in a theocracy, not a republic predicated on a secular Constitution,” says FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “If the bill sponsors don’t care about the oath of office they took to defend our godless Constitution, then maybe Matthew 6:5 should give them pause. In this verse, Jesus warns that ‘when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray in order to be seen by men, but go into your room, close the door and pray in secret.’”
The National Prayer Breakfast legislation is pure pandering. It also speaks to the gross overrepresentation of religionists in Congress.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.