Washington (CNN) - An ethics group has protested President Barack Obama's plan to appear Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, raising questions about the event's sponsor.
"The breakfast, designed to appear as if government-sanctioned, actually serves as a meeting and recruiting event for the shadowy Fellowship Foundation," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said in a statement.
The organization, also known as "The Foundation" and "The Family," has ties to efforts in Uganda to pass an anti-homosexuality law that would punish sexual activity between persons of the same sex with long jail terms or death, the ethics group said.
A Ugandan legislator who introduced the bill - which was roundly condemned by human rights groups - was scheduled to attend the breakfast but his invitation has been revoked, the group said.
The breakfast is held annually on the first Thursday in February. The president, members of Congress and other dignitaries regularly attend. Obama is scheduled to speak at the event.
Members of the Fellowship Foundation could not be reached for comment Thursday morning. CREW did not divulge the source of its information.
J. Robert Hunter, a member The Fellowship who has spoken publicly about the group, told The New York Times in a story Thursday that it was unfair to blame the group for the Uganda legislation. About 30 family members, all Americans who are active inAfrica, conveyed their dismay about the legislation to Ugandan politicians, including the bill's sponsor, Hunter said.
The ethics group asked Obama and members of Congress on Monday not to attend the breakfast. On Wednesday, it asked television network C-SPAN to refrain from broadcasting the prayer breakfast, or at least to properly identify its sponsor as the Fellowship.
"The Fellowship has been cultivating an unorthodox brand of Christianity amongst the political, military and economic elite of America and other countries for over 50 years, focused on meeting Jesus 'man-to-man,'" CREW said.
"The organization operates under an intense veil of secrecy, staying largely out of the public eye and hiding its donors' identities." Its leader, Doug Coe, has led the group since 1969, according to CREW.
The fellowship operates a residence and meeting place on Capitol Hill that has been linked to "ethically troubled" politicians, including Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the ethics group said.
"The president and members of Congress should not legitimize this cult-like group - the head of which has praised the organizing abilities of Hitler and bin Laden - by attending the breakfast," Melanie Sloan, CREW executive director, said in a statement.