The National Prayer Breakfast which will be attended this morning by Barack Obama is in no sense national. It isn’t a governmental event organized by the nation as a whole. It’s a solely Christian event that represents only part of the American nation. The secretive group that organizes the event isn’t a national organization either: It’s called the International Foundation, and it has branches in countries all around the world.
The International Foundation is the legal name under which the organization does business in the United States. However, members of the International Foundation often use other terms to refer to their group: The Fellowship Foundation, National Fellowship Council, National Leadership Council, or just The Family. (For a good review of the work of the organization, check out The Family, written by Jeff Sharlett.)
One of the branches of the International Foundation is in the African nation of Uganda. A member of the International Foundation, David Bahati, organizes the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast there. Bahati is a member of the Ugandan national legislature, where he proposed a law that, if passed, would make homosexuality a crime that could be punished by death. Bahati’s legislation would also allow the Ugandan police to put people in jail merely for the promotion of homosexuality. It isn’t a purely Ugandan effort, though, given the way that the International Foundation provides substantial financial support to Bahati’s group.
As the Ugandan campaign illustrates, the International Foundation is not a politically-neutral organization that merely promotes general religious worship. It attempts to use its connections to leaders in the federal government to promote Christianity above other religions, while advancing a consistently right wing political agenda in every nation where it has operations. As David Bahati is attempting to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death in Uganda, members of the International Foundation are working to preserve the criminalization of same-sex marriage here in the United States.
Barack Obama’s participation in the International Foundation’s meeting this morning is particularly troubling given his continued support for a government program begun by George W. Bush to funnel government money to religious organizations. President Obama has expanded Bush’s office of “faith-based” (religious) initiatives, and preserved a loophole that allows organizations receiving government funding to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion.
That’s a position that the International Foundation supports. Is Barack Obama seeking to gain admittance as a member of this extremist organization, or is he merely building a political alliance with the group?
Whatever Obama’s intentions, he is providing the International Foundation with the implicit support of the White House by attending the National Prayer Breakfast this morning. Obama’s presence helps the organization create the illusion that it is part of the United States government, when it is in fact registered as a tax exempt religious organization. The mixture of Church and State created by the National Prayer Breakfast’s pose as a governmental institution is so disturbing that the non-partisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has written letters to Obama and top congressional leaders this year, asking them not to participate in the theocratic event.
Postscript: The New York Times says of the International Foundation, “The Family has no identifiable Internet site, no office number and no official spokesman.” It seems that the New York Times isn’t able to do basic research: Manta lists the following information for the International Foundation:
204 Mount Oak Pl
Annapolis, MD 21409-5868
Phone: (410) 757-7115
The FEC has records of campaign contributions by employees of the International Foundation as well, providing us with the names of three employees:
Tara Jo Mann
Tara Jo Mann appears to be a close relative of Republican congressional candidate Tracey Mann.