Gay rights advocates question Obama's prayer breakfast appearance
President Barack Obama and wife Michelle at Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast
February 4th, 2011
11:54 AM ET

Gay rights advocates question Obama's prayer breakfast appearance

By Padmananda Rama, CNN

Washington (CNN) – As President Barack Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, demonstrators outside reignited a simmering debate over the role the breakfast's organizers in an attempt to pass anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Gay rights activists urged President Obama not to attend this year’s National Prayer Breakfast accusing the Fellowship Foundation - which hosts the annual event - of promoting anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

“We would love for the President to come out and join us at the “Breakfast without Bigotry,” said Michael Dixon, an organizer with GetEqualDC who organized Thursday's prayer breakfast demonstrations.

As thousands attended the invitation-only breakfast inside the Washington Hilton, outside 30 or so demonstrators gave their own eulogy and prayers for slain Ugandan rights activist David Kato, who was killed last month.

In an interview last year, Kato told CNN he feared for his life after a local Ugandan tabloid listed him as one of the country’s “top homosexuals.” Kato was also a strong advocate for gay rights in a country where homosexual acts are considered crimes.

Prior to his murder, he fought against proposed legislation that would potentially increase the maximum punishment from life in prison to death.

Demonstrators in Washington said that the Fellowship Foundation, the Christian organizers behind the National Prayer Breakfast, have supported that legislation. David Bahati, the Ugandan parliamentary member who introduced the anti-gay bill, is associated with the Christian group.

The Fellowship Foundation is also known as the Family, after a book by that name that was published about the group several years ago.

“The values the Family is actually espousing could not be further from what Jesus would actually support,” Dixon told CNN. “We feel that persecuting people because of the way that they were born, trying to have them imprisoned for life, trying to execute them, is not Christian and it’s not a family value in any sense of the word.”

J. Robert Hunter, who has worked with Fellowship prayer groups in Uganda and is authorized by the organization to speak on Ugandan issues, tells CNN the Fellowship has repeatedly condemned the proposed law.

“The bill flies in the face of Christian teachings,” said Hunter. “It’s very draconian. I know of no one here who supports it. Everybody thinks it’s awful.”

Hunter, who says he’s been actively involved with the Fellowship for more than 30 years, describes it as “loosely affiliated prayer groups.” In the early 1980s, Hunter began making regular trips to Uganda, most recently to work with two hospitals there.

He says he met with Bahati in 2009 or 2010 and denounced the bill. When he visits this year, he has no plans to see him.

“We have opposed the bill consistently ever since it’s come out,” said Hunter. “The very first people to oppose the bill were people in Uganda, who were in the Fellowship group, who when Bahati explained the bill to them said it was wrong. So we’re also the first people to oppose it.”

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the Episcopal church's first openly gay bishop, is critical of the Fellowshiop.

“What I and others are calling for is for The Family organization to do far more than it’s done recently. There’s been a… mediocre and fairly listless attempt to distance itself from this law,” he said. "If you start a wildfire and it gets out of control and burns a bunch of homes, you know, it does no good to say, ‘Oh gosh, I never really meant to have it end up this way.”

Mr. Hunter, who attended this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, says Mr. Bahati was not invited.

Uganda’s Parliament is scheduled to vote on the anti-gay bill later this year.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Barack Obama • Christianity • Gay rights • Politics • Uganda

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. ACC

    Just as religion was used negatively to strip African Americans of their rights decades ago, it is being used to strip Gay Americans from their rights today.

    February 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • TryTheTruth

      How stupid a comment, as a Black American, I am greatly offended that you would use the struggles of black people in America to compare to people who are gay. By the way, what rights do gay people not have? Marriage was defined by God when He created Eve (one man, one woman), No, you do not have the "right" to redefine it.

      February 8, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  2. LandStander

    @WDinDallas "The major lobbyists against "gay marriage" are insurance companies. Why? Because of the extremely high rate of HIV in this cross-section of society"
    -- Well then it is a good thing African Americans got the right to get married a long time ago, because they are in the high HIV risk category as well.

    February 6, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  3. LandStander

    @WDinDallas "No offspring, thus in a religious as well as Nature view the marriage cannot be consecrated."
    --Exactly! This is why infertile couples are not allowed to get married! Oh wait...
    @Kabel "Hypocrites! So if an individual supports...."
    --Not at all. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion, which is part of what makes this country so great. Everyone has the right to be treated with respect. But that also means everyone should also be able to see their loved ones in hospitals, be equal in the tax code, etc.
    @TryTheTruth "You have every right that are afforded to all american people. What you don't have the right to do is change the definition of marriage."
    --Gay people do -not- have every right that is given to other Americans. Most Americans have protection from being fired at work for who they are (i.e. non discrimination policies). Secondly, you say they do not have the right to "change the definition of marriage." as though that definition has been set in stone forever. If that were true, women would still be worth cattle or truces, and given away by their fathers. People of different races and religions would not be able to marry. Countering with "Well it has always been a union of a man and a woman" is inadequate, as we both know very well those have rarely in history been the only two prerequisites.

    February 6, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  4. WDinDallas

    Let's don't confused Gay Rights with Human Rights. The Gay Activists are looking for more than equal, they look for an advantage or special compensation. We can see the outcome by looking back just a few decades in history. This is why they have not achieve the goal of equality as they speek. The major lobbyists against "gay marriage" are insurance companies. Why? Because of the extremely high rate of HIV in this cross-section of society. The religious/moral issues is a simple as the natural issues. No offspring, thus in a religious as well as Nature view the marriage cannot be consecrated.

    So, in all aspects Gay Marriage is an oxymoron. Why have it?

    February 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  5. Horton Who?

    Something about legal "marriage" that most folks just don't seem to get: At the end of every religious marriage ceremony in the U.S. the presiding celebrant intones these words: "By the power and authority invested in me by the state of (Fill in the blank.), I now pronounce you ..." In other words LEGAL marriage is a civil contract NOT a religious one. Jumping over a broom, being joined in the midst of a ritualized celebration of virtual cannibalism, stomping goblets: none of these create a civil contract. Only going to the CIVIL authorities buying and signing a license (contract) creates a legal marriage. Only civil marriages are legal. The religious ceremony is icing on the cake and should have no bearing on equal protection under the law.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  6. Kabel

    Hypocrites! So if an individual supports gay and lesbian "rights" then they are okay, but if they don't, then they are part of some conspiracy and thus should be questioned or scrutinized. What a joke!

    February 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  7. A CNN Reader

    Even socialist muslims like making money and getting their face on the news.... especially since a just over a year and a half from now we gonna vote his self outta office...

    February 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  8. HeavenSent

    SD, please stop assuming that all democrats are spiritually stunted. They are a small part of the party that have run amuck as they work in the arenas of the media, Hollywood, newspapers/mags and the likes. There are many democrats that are practicing Christians that read, comprehend and abide in His truth and are just as perplexed as you ... that there is definitely something in their drinking water.


    February 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Sent – Yep there Christians on all sides of such topics. I know there are a few democrats upset that the ones that presured for the overturning of don't ask don't tell were gay and lesbian republicans. That's why you did not hear too many democrats in the media speak on who was pushing that bill because it would go against the stereotypical view that all republicans hate gays.

      So is there a way we can move forward saying that all democrats are not morally bankrupt and all republicans are not hate filled bigots?

      February 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  9. SD

    David Johnson you are right. When the Republicans take back over the White House and they will someday it is just the law of averages, some of the positive things that have happened in Gay Rights will be repealed. Won't matter though, they will have spent the time they had with some rights, complaining it wasn't enough and singing the somebody done me wrong song to notice.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  10. SD

    colorkysman so what if the group sponsoring it is against gay rights so are most Americans, that's why you have limited rights, it is always defeated at the voting polls. Stop worring about what is going on in other countries, the closest you will probably get to Uganda is the Bronx in New York. Haven't you noticed Gays can't marry in this country either. You wake up!!, and get off your throne. It is what it is...religious or not religous the majority of people don't believe in Gay Rights, let them work that out and go take a nap.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  11. SD

    This is ridiculous!! The Presdient just orchestrated a major piece of legislation in repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and still you complain. You don't want equal rights, you want a throne, rose pedals and a blue ribbon. Well guess what, you are not getting it none of you our. Religious preference is a privaledge and we will not be black mailed by your needs...There are some who don't agree with you, get over it. The Peace you seek is within yourself, stop looking for others the make you whole

    February 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  12. Evolved DNA

    I have never understood why religions almost universally hate gays..maybe some one can explain it to me.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • TryTheTruth

      Evolved, your question has the wrong assumption. Religions don't hat gays. Religious people don't even hate gays. Religious people just don't want the "gay agenda" forced down their throats. People who have their beliefs about the act that makes one gay, don't want to be FORCED to change their beliefs. Since religious people won't change their beliefs, even by force (name calling i.e., haters, phobias' fundamentalist, extremist) they are labeled "haters." But the reality is, they don't hate gays, they just don't want to be forced to accept the gay agenda.

      February 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Try the truth.. thanks for the reply, but again the" gay agenda".. what is that. These people are human beings and although they do not fit the mold that the religious folks use, they should have the same respect afforded to everybody else. As for things forced down the throat, I see lots of bibles in every hotel room, but nothing from atheists, gays, Buddhists, Druids etc.. so i have to question who is forcing what at this time.I still do not think most religious people understand why they dislike ( then) gays.. it has been told to them ot learned from their peers or parents.. but ask specifically what it is and i am sure it would come out as hate.. sorry.

      February 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      Those that support the so-called gay agenda are not asking anyone to change their beliefs. All we are doing is asking you to get out of the way of extending equal rights to all. I hate religion, but support your right to believe whatever you like and am not agitating to deny you your rights, as much as I personally would like to see religion eradicated. Why can't believers "suck it up" and allow gays to have the same rights as believers?

      February 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • TryTheTruth

      Thank you, but when I look at what you are saying, two things come to mind, firriest of all, what rights? What rights do gay people not have? You have every right that are afforded to all american people. What you don't have the right to do is change the definition of marriage. Secondly, when you say, "get out the way", sound like you are saying to everyone, shut up and get in the closet while we pervert the weak minded people to our agenda.

      Again, religious people have the right to stand up to you and not be called haters. Persons who unfairly harm the reputation of those who disagree with them are those full of hate.

      February 5, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • HotAirAce

      1) I am not gay, 2) I am not full of hate and 3) I am not am American, so may not be up to date on the latest changes in US law, such as changes to the law (in the US, or just Florida?) to allow same-s3x partners equal rights in a hospital. That being said, I believe, and more importantly gays believe, that gays in the US do not fully share the same rights as all other Americans. The most obvious example is the patchwork of access to marriage and all the rights and privileges that go with it. A same s3x couple is not treated the same everywhere in the US.

      With regard to the definition of marriage, I am only concerned about the legal definition of marriage. As far as I'm concerned, houses-of-silliness can define it anyway they like, provided children are not abused (such as is the case in islam with marrying off 10 year old girls) and the arrangements are consensual. Notice, I have not called for a strict adherence to all secular laws, which would be my preference, but do want to leave room for the multiple spouse wackos. And yes, I'm sure that my liberal approach leaves lots of room for "evil" to creep in, so let's just call it a well intentioned starting point.

      With respect to the (legal) definition of marriage, it is not untouchable – I'm sure it has been changed many times, for many reasons, most notably (at least in Canada and other so-called western liberal democracies, small "L" intended) to treat un-married hetros3xual couple under the law the same as married couples. What's the problem in extending this to cover gays, other than someone's book of tribal myths?

      Further on that point, *any* time someone proposes a change, or to block a change, because of what their book-of-magic says, they are most likely being discriminatory! Faith should not be a basis for public policy! Facts should be, and there are more observable and verifiable facts to show that ho-mos3xuality occurs throughout nature, than there is for the validity of any sky daddy based religion.

      In summary, think and do want you want in private, but do not use your faith based beliefs to withhold anything from others, especially those of other tribes.

      February 6, 2011 at 1:13 am |
    • TryTheTruth

      Thanks HotAir, now I see why you use that name. God defined marriage when He created Eve (one man, one woman).

      February 8, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  13. Reality

    Gays unions? Yes!! Gay marriages, physically and biologically impossible!!!! Next topic!!!!

    February 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Natural gay reproduction impossible? Yes!! Gay marriages, completely unrelated to physiology or biology!!! Next topic!!!!

      February 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality

      From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay se-xual activity is still mutual ma-sturbation caused by one or more complex se-xual defects. Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Apparently, ho.mose.xuality is well within the range of natural behaviors for many animals.
      What's the issue? You don't have to participate, if you don't want to. I don't.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Nominus

      Want to go to the courthouse and sign up for a (legal) civil union and be 'joined' by a judge? Outstanding! Love and respect each other... have a great life.

      Insist on going to a church that doesn't recognize gay marriage, but attempt to impose your agenda by calling the church leadership and membership bigoted? Cya.

      February 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Let Us Prey,
      Glad to hear you don't have a problem with civil same-s.ex marriages.

      As for church marriages, the church has the right to do what it wants for the most part, but that doesn't include the right to not be ridiculed. If someone thinks they're being bigoted, hypocritical, criminal, unethical, or just plain obnoxious then they have the right to say so.

      February 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Nominus

      "If someone thinks they're being bigoted, hypocritical, criminal, unethical, or just plain obnoxious then they have the right to say so."

      Not necessarily. Study up on your 1Amendment exceptions. This hasn't reached that point yet, but I have no doubt that someone, some church, somewhere, will pull the trigger on a defamation action sooner or later.

      February 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    It broke my heart when the Republicans took over the House.

    The Republicans are the puppets of the Religious Right.

    I am sure in the near future an amendment defining marriage, as between a man and woman, will be introduced.

    Gay rights will dwindle and die.

    I hope I'm wrong. I am 100% behind gay rights.


    February 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Anglican

      Dave. They will destroy health reform and replace it with nothing.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ David Johnson

      "The Republicans are the puppets of the Religious Right."

      You've got it backwards again, Dave. "Morality" isn't driving a legislative agenda. Business and government is scapegoating morality to save the exorbitant costs of dependent benefits. Yeah, I know... the evil church with it's excessive control, unfair influence and nonsensical dogma.

      Have you ever, for one second, thought that the source of the problem isn't the church? It's simply a tool, David.

      Just like you.

      February 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Sponsee91

      I agree the republican tea party are all going off the deep end and if we continue electing these people in office we will be in four wars at a time because of what they want to change this country into if you are a voter please think about electing those people in office again.

      February 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Let Us Pray

      The Texas history books are rewriting history to give the conservative slant. The objective of all these efforts, is to create a Christian Nation, a theocracy with Jesus as head. A huge campaign is underway, to convince the American people, the founding fathers never intended a separation of church and state. Thomas Jefferson's role as a founding father is played down. In some cases Jefferson is smudged.

      Expect an attack on the 1st Amendment. The founding fathers will weep.

      Most of the Tea Party are for a Christian Theocracy.

      The Republicans are the puppets of the Religious Right. They now control the House.

      You will see an amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman. Gay rights will dwindle and die.

      Roe Vs. Wade will be reversed. Women will once again be forced to seek back alley remedies.

      Stem cell research will stagnate. The hopes of damaged and sick people will be dashed.

      P_ornography will be illegal. The Religious Right will decide what is p_ornographic , as well as what is art. You will watch television programs approved by the Evangelicals. Lots of reruns of "Growing Pains", starring that Evangelical darling Kirk Cameron. Thank you Jesus!

      Creationism will be taught in school, most likely alongside evolution rather than instead of, but no guarantees.

      Little Johnny will believe in talking snakes and trees that bear knowledge and everlasting life giving fruit. *sigh*

      The rest of the world is spending their time learning real science and math. Good luck Johnny. Can you say: "Would you like fries with that?"

      Prayer will be back in school, but only the one true god, the Christian god, will be given homage. The non-Christians will be allowed to put their heads down on their desks, during the morning worship. They can contemplate their damnation, for not accepting Jesus.

      $ex education will consist of abstinence only. Studies have shown it is a worthless concept. Ladies, cross your legs!!!
      Jesus will be the Head of State! And only the Evangelicals will be able to hear His voice. They will tell the rest of us His will. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

      We will be a slave to a make believe god. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.

      February 5, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Let Us Prey

      David... paranoia can be treated nowadays. There is help available.

      February 5, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  15. BubbaLou

    "Can anybody find me somebody to [HATE]?"


    February 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  16. BubbaLou

    "Can anybody find me somebody to [HATE]?"


    February 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  17. greenluv1322

    He's so pressed to be on the side of bigots. Makes me think..."birds of a feather, flock together." He knows "The Family" is a hate group but it doesn't matter because all religions are hate groups. If he really wants to convince people he is a christian he should change name to John Paul or something out of the book of killings called the "bible."

    February 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • W247

      I get so tired of hearing people stereotype each other over and over and over again. I am a Christian I DO NOT HATE AND I AM NOT A BIGOT NOR AM I A RACIST OR AN ELITIST OR AN IGNORANT, BRAIN WASHED CHILD.

      Stop being so hateful in your speech towards other people. Learn how to love before you accuse others of not being loving.

      February 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Sponsee91

      You should read what you write before you post it because you sound like a dam fool President Obama does not have to explain to you or anyone else including the republican tea party because if those individual really believed in God like they pretend that they do what are they so hateful toward another human being oh I forgot the queen of stupiedy Sara Palin I will continue to pray for fools like you.

      February 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  18. BGJ

    So the activists are demonstrating because the they say the sponsoring group supports a law that the group says it opposes.....looks like they are addicting to protesting and are going to protest regardless of the facts.

    February 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • colorkysman

      NO, we're protesting because the group sponsoring the bill, has an anti-gay agenda. They also support the Ugandan proposed law that will put people in prison for life just because they are gay. They also support the Ugandan magazines that publish lists of names of gay people in Uganda who are gay with a caption "hang him". They also support the Ugandan bigots who last week murdered a gay man named David Kato. These are the facts. Wake up!

      February 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • colorkysman

      NO, we're protesting because the group sponsoring the breakfast has an anti-gay agenda. They also support the Ugandan proposed law that will put people in prison for life just because they are gay. They also support the Ugandan magazines that publish lists of names of gay people in Uganda who are gay with a caption "hang him". They also support the Ugandan bigots who last week murdered a gay man named David Kato. These are the facts. Wake up!

      February 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Lynne

    canopy, does it physically hurt to be that ignorant?

    February 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • What the!?

      Well not canopy, ignorance is bliss to the ignoramus, but it is painful to everyone around it. So no but YES.

      February 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  20. canopy

    He obviously attended to support his "i'm a Christian" argument.

    February 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.