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- which was roundly condemned by human rights groups - was scheduled to attend the breakfast but his invitation has been revoked, the group said.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

    Obama finally does something good and the libs bash him.


    February 4, 2010 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  2. Tram

    Whoa - the Family?

    Sheesh. I know Washington is the ground floor for a lot of shadow organizations, but this one is almost comically scary. The fact that it exists is scary enough, but what they believe in? You have to laugh at the inanity and the stupidity of it.

    February 4, 2010 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. mary

    Is there room for people to be engaged in this country? The President cannot go to a breakfast meeting because it's organized by a group another group doesn't like; Sarah Palin is asking the president to fire his chief of staff because he used a certain word; Sarah Palin is angry because a Republican campaigner in TX used the word "retarded". What else can people do? It does appear that because of Sarah Palin there are lots of things that people cannot say/do in this country right now!

    February 4, 2010 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  4. Janet Van der Dussen

    As long as the group is fully identified as "The Family" I think that President Obama can use this opportunity to illuminate the public on just what this organization promotes. We don't need CREW to make a judgement for us. Give us the facts and let us decide whether or not to accept their philosophies and Christian doctrines. I appreciate the CREW's efforts to reveal the connections "The Fellowship" has with political activists, foreign policies, and business interests. Keep up the good work. However, I dissagree with their notion that the President's presence at the Prayer Meeting somehow implies that he necessarily supports their goals. I don't think limiting the President's access to this group or any other is in the best interest of the American People. I trust President Obama to challenge them as he has challenged others in the past. Thank you.

    February 4, 2010 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  5. WoW

    Liberal organizations are way out of line. The president of the United States wants to attend a National Prayer Breakfast. He is religious, that's his choice. Let him be and attend it. Liberal organizations need to stop complaining about everything.

    February 4, 2010 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. Charlie in Maine

    Liberals who blast the President for this are missing the point. He should attend. Either he will talk some sense into them (highly doubtful) or he will continue to be reasonable in the face of their craziness.

    How often does anyone even remotely progressive get to appear at their functions?

    Relax.... and push him on healthcare where he needs it

    February 4, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  7. Paul

    For heaven sake, give the President a break at least in things he has to do as the President of United States. CREW should be looking out for its own leaders as to how responsible and ethical they are. CREW is nothing but self centered, shelfish group....

    February 4, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  8. Brad, Ohio

    Honestly? It's a breakfast. Get over it. This would at least give the President an opportunity to express his disagreement over the group's views if he chooses to do so.

    February 4, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  9. BILL

    "The president,members of congress and other dignitaries regularly attend". If this meeting is regularly attended by the people mentioned, why is it an issue now that President Obama is scheduled to attend? the Ugandan legislation in question sounds like an excuse for this "ethics group" to further their own agenda.

    February 4, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  10. Dan Christensen

    Since when does the President, by virtue of his office, lose the right of religious freedom which is a constitutional right given to ALL Americans?

    February 4, 2010 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  11. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    Hey sorry, not a big Obama fan, but this is a long standing tradition and CREW sounds like another left wing nut group that this president should disassociate himself with. It would be nice if he could disassociate himself from the organzation of left wing nuts that now calls itself the democratic party. It sure isn't the democratic party I used to belong to and worked for.

    February 4, 2010 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  12. Laurie

    People need to chill out. He is eating breakfast. Please all please none and the real problems in this country spiral out of control. Let the President have his breakfast and shut up.

    February 4, 2010 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. Kevin in Ohio

    Yet one more example of the INTOLERANCE of the hatemongering left-wing progressives. In this case, President Obama is actually RIGHT.... he is, in this situation, living up to his pledge to be president of ALL of us.

    When will people realize that the vitriol and thuggery of the left is no longer acceptable? Hopefully, in November.....

    February 4, 2010 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  14. Debra Benton

    I listened to it and thought he did a great job... he did include his agenda just like his predecessors have...but he also admitted to mistakes which is not easy for a powerful leader to do.

    February 4, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  15. Ellid

    I don't see why any President, ever, should have to make an appearance at an event sponsored by a group with the avowed intention of making America a theocracy. The Family is more dangerous than Communism ever was, and it's well past time that they lost their tax exempt status and were shut down as a right-wing political organization with religious overtones.

    February 4, 2010 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  16. Steve in Ct

    He recently spoke at a Republican meeting where he chastized them for not doing everything his way and called them obstructionists for holding out to make changes they felt are needed to the health Care bill, to do it right rather than just do it HIS way or the hi-way. Perhaps that's what the speech in question is about. Next he'll speak to the NRA to tell them he doesn't want citizens to be armed and that they're in the way of his agenda to disarm America. This guy reads Of, For and By The People as Of, For and By Obama. He's the obstructionist as a dictator. "If I don't get everythying I want I'm gonna take my ball and go home". If he keeps trying to circumvent the system I say don't wait for 2012. Just impeach the dictator before he bankrupts the country. Mr. President, take your ball and go home.

    February 4, 2010 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  17. patNY

    That's it! Final straw for this now former Obama supporter. I will not vote for him in 2012. Doesn't mean I'll vote republican, however. May vote for a third party now.

    February 4, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  18. Bill

    When do we let go of dangerous superstitions, including ALL organized religion? They are all so harmful and full of evil masquerading as good intentions. The president of the United States has no place attending such a junk event.

    But politicians are politicians and will take the easy road every time, I guess.

    February 4, 2010 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  19. PD in KC

    I applaud CREW's efforts and hope they keep the pressure on; "The Foundation" is a cult...if only they would drink the KoolAid.

    February 4, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  20. Jeff Collier

    This entire article is one big editorial, provided by the folks at CREW. CREW said this; CREW said that. Seriously, CNN?

    February 4, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  21. Spirit of America

    What's wrong with public prayer? He and our country are going to need all the prayers they can get in order to avoid economic collapse because of unending and expanding wars abroad.

    February 4, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  22. Ed Dugan, Mountain Home, Arkansas

    Government and politics are one thing, religion is another, and never, ever in this country should the two be mixed. I have little knowledge of this group but their tactics are all too familiar. If you don't believe me watch Tebow's commercial on Sunday. Lower your guard, even a milimeter, and there they are ready to shove their beliefs down your throat. Thank you CREW for exposing this farce.

    February 4, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  23. Enough

    Nice! Is he going to quote a prayer from Rev. Wright? You don't spend 20 years in a racist church and not take some of it with you!

    February 4, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  24. JPP

    Yet another example of the influence of religious stupidity. When are we going to get a politician with enough backbone to admit that these groups are purely political, and turn their back on this religious farce?

    Get religion out of the political process. Of course, then christianity would lose about half it's members once it's political influence is eliminated.

    February 4, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  25. jeff jackson, alabama

    Take a look at human history and look at
    every society run by athiests.

    February 4, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
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