While President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton addressed the invite-only ticketed National Prayer Breakfast, Americans gathered in cities around the country to protest the event. The American Prayer Hour was organized to protest the involvement of American politicians and religious leaders (many of whom were no doubt present at the Breakfast) in helping Uganda's legislature craft the notorious Anti-Homosexuals bill.
Just down the road from the Washington Hilton, where the The Family's event was held, attendees of the the D.C.'s American Prayer Hour gathered at Calvary Baptist Church and joined 17 other cities in the collective protest.
Attendees were treated to an interfaith service that featured Rabbi Elizabeth Richman of Jews United for Justice, Imam Daayiee Abdullah Al-Fatiha Foundation (an international organization that supports gay and lesbian Muslims), and a litany from out seminary student Dustin Baker of Howard University Divinity School.
The wide array of faiths represented at the prayer hour in Washington was a far cry from what attendees of The Family's breakfast were treated to, said Rev. Dr. Dean Snyder of Washington's Foundry United Methodist Church, who has attended the National Prayer Breakfast once before.
"When I went, none of the folks at my table or at other tables represented the broad range of the Christian community nor its people," Snyder said. "We must stop lending credence to the National Prayer Breakfast by having our politicians attend it.
Snyder's remarks, however, fell on deaf ears as the president, members of his cabinet and many members of Congress attended the event. Indeed, every president since Eisenhower has attended the annual Breakfast. The president and Sec. Clinton did take the opportunity, however, to speak out about the pending legislation and about the need to stop it.
"We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree to the need to lift our children out of ignorance, to lift our neighbors from poverty. We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it's here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extreme and odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda," Mr. Obama said.
Watch the video below, courtesy of Think Progress. The clip also includes Sec. Clinton's statement.
Despite the encouraging words from the president and his top diplomat, Snyder said a separation from The Family would ensure a better outcome for the nation.
"If the association between The Family and the Ugandan bill were to end the National Prayer Breakfast, this would be a gift to American democracy.
The American Prayer Hour yesterday was preceded the night before by a spirited protest and rally. Protesters gathered outside the house on Capitol Hill at 133 C St SE. The building is just steps away from U.S. House office buildings.
The rally attracted the attention of many Hill staffers, several of whom lent their support by either joining the protesters or shouting a "right on!" More than one person told the protesters they were glad someone was finally there to expose The Family for who they really are.
The protest was organized by the local grass-roots activist group Full Equality Now DC, which was born out of last year's National Equality March.
Despite the President's remarks, it is still not clear how the Ugandan legislature will respond to this very public rebuke. The Family's influence in American politics still remains in tact, but for the first time more scrutiny was applied to the business of this secretive group. For the first time a collective effort was made to shed light on the right-wing fundamentalist organization by offering an alternative to their exclusive event.
"The only way to combat hate is to do what we we're doing here today," said Snyder. "Our family has no secrets, no hidden agendas, no superiors or inferiors. In this family, there are only brothers and sisters. That is the family we are."