Government-Supported Religion

In The Future, Let’s Skip This Breakfast

  Rob Boston

The National Prayer Breakfast was held this morning. Last year, I noted that this annual event was less alarming than it had been under President Donald Trump but still annoying. My opinion hasn’t changed.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), one of the organizers for the breakfast, told Religion News Service, “I think this year is a positive reset that allows us to focus on the original mission of the prayer breakfast, which was a much narrower engagement between Congress, the president, and some inspirational singers and speakers.”

Coons is undoubtedly sincere, but I’m afraid the National Prayer Breakfast is beyond rehabilitation. It’s sponsored by a shadowy Christian nationalist group called the Fellowship Foundation (AKA The Family), which came up with it during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration as a way to minister to the powerful. These days, it’s mainly a hollow show of piety during which politicians in D.C. pretend to be united in prayer before they return to partisan sniping.

The event, which featured remarks by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, is privately sponsored and normally takes place in a hotel. This year, due to concerns over COVID, the breakfast was smaller in size and was held in the visitor’s center of the U.S. Capitol. That only makes things worse. The people’s house shouldn’t be used for what is essentially a Christian worship service.

The National Prayer Breakfast is an empty exercise in “civil religion,” which many truly devout people would say isn’t meaningful religion at all. It sends a message of exclusion to the millions of Americans who are not Christian or not religious. Rather than try to rebuild it, we should just discard it.

(Photo: Screenshot of President Joe Biden speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, via C-SPAN 2)

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