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American Prayer Hour provides needed contrast to National Prayer Breakfast

For too long, the American people have been in the dark about a right-wing Christian organization called the Fellowship Foundation, but more commonly known in Washington as The Family.

The Family finances and gives technical support and training to political and faith leaders around the globe with a goal of spreading homophobia and heterosexism worldwide. We have seen the fetid fruits of The Family’s labors in recent weeks as its friends in the Ugandan Parliament have sponsored legislation that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death in some instances and by life imprisonment in virtually all others. Moreover, the law would make criminals of friends, family members and neighbors of LGBT people who failed or refused to turn LGBT folk in to the authorities. Their justification for such barbarism and the totalitarian control it would require is that Jesus wants them to wipe out homosexuals.

Tuesday morning I moderated a panel of diverse faith leaders at the National Press Club who said loudly and clearly that nothing could be further from the truth.

Each year the National Prayer Breakfast brings the international supporters of The Family to Washington to rub elbows with many of the most powerful people on the planet, including members of Congress and often the president of the United States. Indeed, President Obama spoke at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast (on Thursday).

More than prayers are offered up at the National Prayer Breakfast. We now know, due to the investigative journalism of Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power>, that when the breakfast is over, the wheeling and dealing begins.

Many participants remain in the city for training events on how to manifest theocratic control of business and government. Financial support for international projects flows from the National Prayer Breakfast, now known to be the annual meeting of the shadowy, secretive Family.

Tax documents from The Family show millions of dollars have gone into programs run by David Bahati, the Ugandan Parliament member who wrote the anti-gay legislation. We called on the head of The Family, Doug Coe, to publicly speak out against the proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda.

Likewise, our nation’s public officials, religious leaders and civil and human rights champions must speak with one, clear voice to tell the world that the proposed execution of a group of people for no other reason than because of their sexuality is immoral and will not be tolerated or condoned through silence.

Members of Congress and other elected officials attending this event cannot turn a blind eye to the obligation they have to speak out against such inhumane proposals as the legislation being proposed in Uganda. So we also called on President Obama to use the occasion of his speech to condemn homophobia and heterosexism, the proposed legislation in Uganda and any further criminalization of homosexuality.

Because the notion of a National Prayer Breakfast has become polluted with the vitriol spewed forth by The Family and its lieutenants, faith leaders and young people across America are organizing alternative prayer events in at least 17 cities (held Thursday). Together we will lift our voices and our hearts in petition to God to be more fully present with us to inspire and equip us to work for God’s justice at the intersection of all the issues of oppression and marginalization that divide God’s human family one from another. At the same time, we will raise public awareness of The Family and its undemocratic, theocratic, totalitarian mission.

This column originally appeared on HRC Backstory. Harry Knox, Director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, participated in a news conference announcing the American Prayer Hour in response to the National Prayer Breakfast.