An atheist group is seemingly claiming victory after Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) purportedly announced he has “no intention of attending” the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event during which members of both sides of the political aisle gather for prayer and reflection.
“Sen. Kaine has not been to the National Prayer Breakfast since 2016 and has no intention of attending,” the congressman’s press secretary Ilse Zuniga reportedly told TYT.
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Many atheists, secularists, and others see this moment as a win, with Kaine’s decision not to participate standing out, despite Zuniga not giving a definitive reason for the senator’s retreat.
Kaine, who co-chaired the National Prayer Breakfast in 2016 and a candidate for vice-president that same year, follows other Democratic members of Congress in distancing himself from the annual gathering, according to Jonathan Larsen.
NEW: Senator Tom Kaine (D-VA) is dropping the National Prayer Breakfast.— Jonathan Larsen (@jtlarsen) December 8, 2021
Kaine was NPB co-chair in 2016.
But his office tells me that Kaine hasn’t gone since 2016 and has “no intention” of attending in February 2022.https://t.co/TuRFEpDk44
Atheist activists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, heralded the news and offered thanks to Kaine for not taking part in the “inappropriate event.”
“Government officials who attend the event in their official capacity send a message that their office endorses the religious message, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” read a statement from FFRF. “This alienates the 30 percent of Americans who are non-Christians, the one in four citizens who are not religious, and the 44 percent of millennials and younger Americans who are non-Christian.”
FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor is also quoted by TYT as saying the organization is elated to see Kaine not take part in the National Prayer Breakfast, and cited the organization’s stance on LGBTQ issues as one reason.
“We’re thrilled that Sen. Kaine has opted not to attend this pay-to-play political event that alienates nonreligious Americans, tramples the constitutional separation of state and church, and has a disturbing history of anti-LGBTQ bigotry,” she said. “The FFRF has long opposed the breakfast and had recently asked Kaine not to participate.”
As Faithwire previously reported, the FFRF and others have in recent months petitioned members of Congress — and President Joe Biden — to boycott and sit out of the annual prayer event.
In October, the FFRF reportedly reached out to every member of Congress who sponsored the 2021 event and urged them to abandon future plans. 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 Freedom From Religion Foundation has written President Biden asking him to stop attending or endorsing the National Prayer Breakfast. Biden attended and spoke virtually at the event this year, held in February. https://t.co/3Saet2c8go pic.twitter.com/fT3fpQioyK— FFRF (@FFRF) November 4, 2021
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.
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.
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