February 4th, 2010
09:47 AM ET
13 years ago

Ethics group objects to Obama prayer breakfast appearance

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- which was roundly condemned by human rights groups - was scheduled to attend the breakfast but his invitation has been revoked, the group said.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.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    This should be fun. Will the same people who came here to regurgitate insane Limbot talking points about Obama being muslim, born in Kenya, etc. etc., when he canceled some prayer thing last year now find some way to jump on the CREW bandwagon? Grab your popcorn...

    February 4, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  2. Tiffany

    What you need to protest is Sarah Palin and the tea party or just get a life.

    February 4, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Bambi go Boom

    I heard Obama's speech at the breakfast and he made it very clear where he stood on the Uganda question: dead against it. He also espoused a liberal view of religion. I don't see how his message could have offended anyone. The complaining group should be pleased with what he said.

    February 4, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  4. Jay

    And how much you want to bet that Obama grills them on some of their shady dealings like he did Republicans last week, specifically on the Ugandian question. What these 'better than thou' folks don't get is that the best way to get your point across is to walk into the lion's den and give them hell face to face. Obama gets it, and we are all better for it.

    February 4, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  5. Susan

    I signed this petition, but after hearing Obama's remarks, I am glad he went. They need to be called out for the slimy organization they are.

    February 4, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. Jeff

    Apparently, future religious right-wing politician Tim Tebow was there as well.

    February 4, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  7. Michael Hamann

    When Obama was first elected. I said "here is a man so gifted, that he will change everything." I was so amazed, that someone finally had the guts to stand up, and say what needed to be said. He called distortions of the truth what were: distractions meant to confuse the public. He avioded the tempatation to criticize his enemies...calling it more of the same: wasted time and counterproductive. He was animated by an almost forgotten ideal: the notion that we can live for the sake of promoting a better world, rather than ourselves. With a man like this as President, I felt that surely we would get change. But I see now, that unless people are able to distinguish between the distractions and the information that matters, there is only so much he will be able to do.

    February 4, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. Bill NY

    Poor guy can't break wind without some nutjob objecting.

    February 4, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  9. William

    What better way to reveal this "Foundation" then to have the President of the United States appear at their breakfast and denounce the very legislation they are supporting.

    February 4, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  10. William

    How many Republicans and/or Democrats who actually attend would denounce them as did President Obama?

    February 4, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. chant

    Good someone in this world needs to set the standards on what ought to and ought not to be done. It is disgusting and is against Gods law. For the wages of sin is death. And for those who don't understand the word of God, this eludes to the spriitual death. Imagine ......everlastig death!

    February 4, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  12. Shelly

    For heavens sake , let him go. He will truly reveal the maddening hypocrisy of the K street Republicans and the Focus on Family group.
    Remember Sanford and Ensign and many others, folks.
    They are another group along with the Tea Baggers that do not represent the decent values of most Americans.

    February 4, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. Luke Brown

    "Ethics Group" ????

    This is a right-wing political operation that is aggressively and improperly using its influence to undermine US foreign and domestic policy.

    Several of the right-wing nuts in Congress are part of this very sinister and un-American secret society.

    February 4, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  14. ThinkAgain

    This whole "the President has to appear at the prayer breakfast" to prove that he's a Christian is silly and juvenile.

    Going to church no more makes you a Christian than sleeping in a garage makes you a car.

    February 4, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. GI Joe

    Too funny,

    They don't object to the secretive group, just that President Obama is speaking,


    February 4, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  16. felicia

    How about this group go and shove it, President Obama doesn't have to listen to any of these groups but the american people.
    P.S. cnn SUCKS

    February 4, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. Wisconsonite

    It's time that we take the blinders off and see the "Fellowship Foundation" & "The Family" for exactly what they are . . . A CULT! That we have elected government officials who are active members of these cults and base their policy making decisions on the ideology of these cults is simply UN-AMERICAN and should be illegal!

    February 4, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. Russell, NC

    Obama doesn't belong at a prayer breakfast.

    February 4, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. Billy J..Texas..

    Man.. this guy has BOTH extremists from the left and the right mad at him!

    I like that! How dare he insult the far left by attending a religous prayer meeting in the fundamentally judeo-christian nation of USA. Not to mention the hand wringing and gnashing of teeth from the far right when he tells him, Jesus didn't want you to be punitive to your enemies (like that gay guy is really an enemy and not just a reminder of how you aren't sure enough about your own orientation)

    He is out of control!!!

    February 4, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Donkey Party

    I don't like him going either, but I'm sure the reason is also to shine more light on the "Family". Remember, President Obama is very calculating. He knows what he's doing.

    February 4, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Marc


    First the 'Death Penalty for Gays' issue is a fact. The guy that proposed that... law is (or was until the story leaked) the rising star of the African branch of the Fellowship Foundation. Actually the consequences of the influence of American Christian Fundamentalism in Uganda are:
    – Abstinence Government Sponsored Programs. Didn't worked as it doesn't here.
    – Public Burnings of Condoms... It's not a joke.
    – Doubling of the Number of AIDS victims... since 'Abstinence' is the only way to cure AIDS, according to the Ugandan officials...
    Second it's all about politics. The Family/Foundation/Fellowship Foundation or whatever you call them IS a powerful group. So the President is trying to please the Christian Fundamentalist or at least play some politic games with them.
    Not very unexpected, isn't it?

    February 4, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. gp

    Keep your religion out of my politics. Do you want my politics in your religion? It can very easily become a two way street.

    February 4, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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