Americans United for Separation of Church and State today deplored the intolerant agenda of “The Family,” a secretive Religious Right group that sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
At a Washington, D.C., press conference this morning, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, joined religious leaders in criticizing The Family for its ties to David Bahati, a Ugandan legislator who is pushing a draconian anti-gay law.
The Family, also known as the Fellowship Foundation, sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, which attracts the president and a large number of members of Congress each year, as well as foreign dignitaries. According to researcher Jeff Sharlet, Bahati is a member of The Family.
Lynn called on President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to attend the prayer breakfast, to condemn the Ugandan proposal, which calls for the execution of gays and the imprisonment of those who promote homosexuality.
“We’re no longer shrugging over the National Prayer Breakfast,” Lynn said. “Rather, we’re taking a closer look at the group behind it and the alarming agenda that it brings and the consequences it spawns in Uganda and around the world. We deplore what we see, and people of goodwill should never be afraid to say it loudly.”
Added Lynn, “The leader of The Family, Doug Coe, should himself – in a public place like this prayer breakfast – repudiate the horrific anti-gay legislation in Uganda and urge that persons of all faiths join in its worldwide repudiation. If the president condemns this legislation, and if Doug Coe acknowledges that this was a sin and a moral scar on the face of the earth, then it would truly be a prayer breakfast to remember.” (The full text of Lynn’s remarks can be found here.)
This morning’s event also featured religious leaders discussing an alternative to the National Prayer Breakfast called the American Prayer Hour. Inclusive events are scheduled to take place in 17 cities.
Lynn and the other speakers criticized The Family for its secretive nature and its effort to promote the mix of far-right politics and fundamentalist religion.
In addition to Lynn, speakers at the event included the Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, a member of the Metropolitan Community Church Board of Elders; the Rev. Harry Knox, director of the Religion and Faith Program for the Human Rights Campaign Fund; Bishop Carlton Pearson, senior interim minister at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago; the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire; Frank Schaeffer, a former Religious Right leader who now disagrees with the movement, and Moses, a young Ugandan gay man seeking asylum in the United States.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.