BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — As Uganda's anti-gay bill resurfaces with the return of parliament, American President Barack Obama's attendance at a National Prayer Breakfast, hosted by The Fellowship Foundation, has angered gay rights activists.
More commonly known as The Family, the conservative Christian group is known to have ties to anti-gay leaders, including Ugandan MP David Bahati, who is piloting the so-called Kill the Gays bill.
The group is the subject of an exposé by Jeff Sharlet entitled The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
“For another year, President Obama has chosen to set aside his stated values of inclusion in order to attend the National Prayer Breakfast — an event rooted in hatred of LGBT people and covered up by pastries and coffee,” Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEqual and a seminary graduate, says in a statement.
“There are so many communities of faith that fully embrace LGBT people and that are rooted in social justice — we really don’t understand why President Obama continues to give his permission for 'The Family' to support killing LGBT folks abroad,” Cronk says. “If the president is looking for ways to publicly demonstrate that he’s a man of faith, he needs to find ways to do so without simultaneously putting the lives of LGBT people in jeopardy. The ‘Kill the Gays’ bill has been moving through the Ugandan Parliament at the very same time that President Obama was speaking to the group supporting it — this practice has got to stop, and the president needs to understand the role he is playing in supporting the execution of LGBT people around the world.”
According to a 2010 New York Times piece, the breakfast has been "a prime networking event in Washington" for more than 50 years. The breakfast, which has been attended by past American presidents, such as Dwight Eisenhower, has also featured such high-profile speakers as Bono, Mother Teresa and former British prime minister Tony Blair.
In his 2013 breakfast speech, Obama, who noted that this was his third year at the event as president, didn't mention gay marriage or gay rights. The full text of his remarks can be found at the whitehouse.gov site.
GetEqual notes that at a previous prayer breakfast, Obama said, “we may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or . . . more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”
"Despite this assertion of the rights of LGBT Ugandans to live in peace, President Obama continues to attend and, therefore, support this event. Given the fact that President Obama has recently come out in favour of LGBT equality — including references in his inaugural speech and in an interview just days ago on Super Bowl Sunday — we are deeply saddened that the president continues to support this event."
Democracy Now's Amy Goodman interviewed Sharlet about his investigation into The Family, its origins and its global reach.