Atheist activists are calling on congressional members to halt participation in the National Prayer Breakfast, a decades-old, annual tradition attended by the president and other high-ranking officials from both parties.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, reportedly reached out to every member of Congress who sponsored the 2021 event and urged them to abandon future plans.
“Are we really still doing this in 2021?” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “Year after year, scandal after scandal, and still not a single prayer has been answered.”
Gaylor went on to say the separation of church and state is being disrespected with participants’ mixture of politics and faith and that “their god doesn’t give a fig for their mimosa-driven pleas.”
A subject line on at least one copy of the letter sent to members of Congress read, “Please stop sponsoring and attending the National Prayer Breakfast.”
The breakfast, which unfolds on the first Thursday in February each year, is a time for the president to share his faith and for members of Congress to display rare bipartisan agreement on matters of spiritual significance.
Considering the intermingling of politics and religion, the event has long drawn the ire of atheist activists who wish to see far fewer instances of such amalgamates. The FFRF’s latest plea explains the organization’s qualms.
“Members of Congress who sponsor or attend the event in their official capacity unfortunately and perhaps inadvertently are sending a clear message that their office endorses the event’s religious message, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” the letter reads, in part.
The FFRF also highlighted “scandals” seen by the non-theists as so problematic they should preclude members of Congress from taking part.
“Russian spies, Christian nationalists and theocrats, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, influence-peddling, and a shadowy religious group known as The Family,” FFRF director of strategic response Andrew Seidel said. “The National Prayer Breakfast contains all of this.”
Seidel’s reference to “Russian spies” being part of the equation is a reference to Russian agent Mariia Butina’s attendance at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2016 and 2017 and her purported claim that other Russians at the event were being used to create backchannel communications from Russia in the U.S.
It should be noted that the National Prayer Breakfast typically hosts well over 3,000 guests from around the world who are reportedly invited through various organizations.
The National Prayer Breakfast dates back to 1953, when the tradition was launched by then-President Dwight Eisenhower. It has expanded over the years and remains one of the most popular annual events in Washington.
This isn’t the first time the FFRF has spoken out against public officials taking part in the National Prayer Breakfast, as the organization issued a statement in February decrying President Joe Biden’s participation and argued he should have “skipped” the event.
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