gay flagWhy is an ethics group in Washington asking President Obama and other Congressional leaders to skip the annual National Prayer Breakfast?

Because one of the sponsors of the February 4 event -- The Fellowship, also known as The Family -- is accused of pushing for anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals. Seems like a pretty good reason, right?

It's so good, in fact, that several religious and gay rights groups have organized alternative prayer events -- called the American Prayer Hour -- in 17 cities in an effort to protest The Family.

Yet, the competing events and protesters picketing in Washington and Boston haven't been enough to deter the President, who's still planning on attending the National Prayer Breakfast (along with Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other officials). How is he justifying his presence at such a controversial event?

According to a White House official, the President and the State Department have spoken out strongly against the legislation in Uganda -- and, therefore, are in no way aligned with the alleged agenda of The Family. Also, every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the event. Why break with tradition now?

But Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- the ethics group that sent the letter requesting Obama reconsider attending -- remains firm in its resolution that by attending the event, American officials are legitimizing a group that in no way deserves it. (The Family has been accused of being fundamentalist and secretive, as well as having ties to the Ugandan politician who has sponsored the proposed anti-gay legislation.)

Here's a spokesperson for the group explaining its position:

It is a combination of the intolerance of the organization’s views, and the secrecy surrounding the organization. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to hold their breakfast; of course they should. The question is, should American officials be lending legitimacy to it, giving their imprimatur by showing up.

In other words, though the National Prayer Breakfast itself may be benign, many are questioning whether the sponsor behind it is up to no good.

Do you think Obama and other Congressional leaders should skip the National Prayer Breakfast?


Image via alex-s/Flickr