|STATEMENT OF THE REV. BARRY W. LYNN,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF
CHURCH AND STATE
February 2, 2010
The American Prayer Hour
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
Murrow Room, 529 14th St. NW
It is no secret to many of you that I have never been a fan of the National
Prayer Breakfast. I’m not comfortable, frankly, with any event that gives
Americans the false impression that religion and government in our country
are one and the same.
Our Constitution is based on secular values, including the separation of
church and state. But too often, the National Prayer Breakfast itself seems
to send the opposite message. Often it seems to be suggesting, as
politicians and clergy participate together in this exercise of religious
outpouring followed by power broking, that government and religion in this
country have an unholy relationship.
This year, of course, the National Prayer Breakfast is mired in much greater
controversy, which we’ve heard about this morning. Recent reporting has
cast a revealing light on The Family, the secretive, very fundamentalist
Christian organization that sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
And what that light has exposed is alarming. It’s reason enough for our
elected officials to approach this year’s event with added caution. In fact,
neither the president nor any member of Congress should attend in
anything like an unthinking or uncritical manner.
My primary concern is that The Family – also of course known as the
Fellowship Foundation – has a long-running goal of reaching politicians,
wealthy business leaders and other individuals of influence and drawing
them into a politically problematic network. Far from being some benign
form of generic religiosity, the National Prayer Breakfast has become The
Family’s primary principal vehicle to insinuate itself into the very highest
levels of the American government.
Yet the group’s expression of faith does not represent some broad range of
religious thought in America. And while the organizers of the Prayer
Breakfast claim that the event is ecumenical, the fact remains that it is
sponsored by a shadowy organization that shuns all public inspection and
apparently sees itself on a messianic drive to merge religion and
government under its own narrow brand and understanding of Christianity.
Some of The Family’s actions that we’ve heard about today have had
appalling repercussions around the world. This group has long had a
longstanding presence in Uganda, and it has recently come to light that a
member of the Ugandan parliament, David Bahati, who sponsored this evil
legislation, is affiliated with The Family very directly.
Bahati has become famous – or better, I suppose, infamous – as the
sponsor of that draconian law that would apply the death penalty in fact or
in its effect to gay men and lesbians in Uganda. The bill would punish those
who harbor gays and anyone who speaks publicly on their behalf.
It is difficult for many of us to imagine such a vile, backward policy being
promoted in the 21st Century anywhere in this world, yet this one has the
backing of many members of the Ugandan government and could in one
form or another still become law. For a time, there were reports that Bahati
himself might attend the Prayer Breakfast here on Thursday. More recent
reports say he will not be there, but the real damage has already been
done. This prayer service is already tainted with the stain of intolerance
and religious extremism.
It’s time for political leaders to stop lending uncritical power and prestige to
an extremist organization that all too often works behind the scenes to
subvert the best of American values – values like human rights and
religious liberty and freedom. We tend to take these concepts for granted in
America, too often forgetting that many people throughout the world still live
under a yoke of oppression. The Family has never done anything to lift that
yoke; it has simply added stones to it, decade after decade.
We cannot stand by while the United States government gives any aid and
comfort to groups or individuals who do not understand the values or,
worse yet, work actively to undermine the values of this country. I believe
The Family does all of that.
The Family, through its worldwide machinations of the rich and powerful, its
espousal of an explosive mixture of religion and politics and now its ties to
this hateful bill in Uganda, has forfeited any right to claim any position of
moral authority. The fact that most of this activity is deliberately done in
secret only amplifies the problem.
What does all of this have to do with Thursday’s breakfast at the Hilton
Hotel? It has plenty to do with it. For many years, people looked at events
like the National Prayer Breakfast, shrugged and said, “Well, it’s just
another example of ‘civil religion.’” At least that’s what some of its defenders
said. It’s just a little religious talk. What’s wrong with that?
Now I think it’s clear that this is about something more, because there is
nothing wrong with religious talk and prayer when it’s freely chosen. But in
this instance, we’re concerned with a corrupted messenger. We’re no
longer shrugging over the National Prayer Breakfast. Rather, we’re taking a
closer look at the group behind it and the alarming agenda that it brings
and the consequences it spawns in Uganda and around the world. We
deplore what we see, and people of goodwill should never be afraid to say
If the president of the United States attends this event, then he should
speak critically of support by government or organizations that support anti-
LGBT legislation anywhere in the world. President Obama should affirm the
primacy of personal faith and repudiate government involvement with it.
Moreover, the leader of The Family, Doug Coe, should himself in a public
place like this prayer breakfast repudiate the horrific anti-gay legislation in
Uganda and urge that persons of all faiths join in its worldwide repudiation.
If the president condemns this legislation, and if Doug Coe acknowledges
that this was a sin and a moral scar on the face of the earth, then it would
truly be a prayer breakfast to remember. Maybe I’d go next year.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn is executive director of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State.
The American Prayer Hour
Religious leaders announce the formation of the
American Prayer Hour,
The National Press Club, Washington, DC
February 2, 2010
Moses of Uganda
"The Family – also of course
known as the Fellowship Foundation
– has a long-running goal of reaching
politicians, wealthy business leaders
and other individuals of influence and
drawing them into a politically
This group has long had a
longstanding presence in Uganda,
and it has recently come to light that
a member of the Ugandan
parliament, David Bahati, who
sponsored this evil legislation, is
affiliated with The Family very directly.
Bahati has become famous – or
better, I suppose, infamous – as the
sponsor of that draconian law that
would apply the death penalty in fact
or in its effect to gay men and
lesbians in Uganda. The bill would
punish those who harbor gays and
anyone who speaks publicly on their
From the Media Release dated January 19, 2010
"We also want to spotlight the National
Prayer Breakfast, which is sponsored by The
Family (aka The Fellowship), a group with
disturbing ties to those spearheading
Uganda's oppressive Anti-Homosexuality Bill."
Excerpt from Rev. Barry W. Lynn's
address at the February 2, 2010
American Prayer Hour press conference:
The full address follows this excerpt
Background photo by Steve Parelli
February 2, 2010
Photo, left to right:
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Bishop Carlton
Pearson, Moses of Uganda
|How Other Sheep and
Moses of Uganda connected
by Rev. Steve Parelli, Bronx, NY
February 3, 2010
Yesterday, at the press conference at The National Press Club in
Washington, DC where key religious leaders announced the
formation of The American Payer Hour, Moses of Uganda, in his
address, publicly thanked "Steve and Other Sheep."
What is the link between Moses and Other Sheep? Moses is an
example of Other Sheep's motto at work: "...connecting people
with people and people with resources.,,"
Last fall (2009), Moses was sponsored to come to the USA for a
conference related to his work. That trip became his opportunity
to seek asylum in America as a gay Ugandan.
When he arrived in the USA he phoned me, and told me his story
and his desire to not return to Uganda.
Steve put Moses in touch with Emmanuel Kamau who is Other
Sheep co-Coordinator for Africa. Emmanuel is from Nairobi,
Kenya. Not too long ago, Emmanuel received asylum in the USA.
He is now working full time, earning a living in Texas where he
resides. Emmanuel housed Moses and put him in touch with
organizations that could help Moses with asylum.
Yesterday, listening to Moses speak, I was transported back to
our (Jose and me) two summers in East Africa (2007 and 2008).
Hearing Moses' voice was like hearing the many, many stories of
LGBT East Africans during our travels. His narrative was the
familiar for me. I was at home listening to him. Following the press
conference he greeted me with a tight embrace, his arms
wrapping tightly around me. I felt his thankfulness in that hug, a
kind of "I've-been-rescued-thank-you-for-your-part" hug.
At lunch, I asked Moses how he first heard of Other Sheep. He
said he was doing a search for Metropolitan Community Church
on the Internet while still in Uganda and came across Other Sheep.
After lunch, Moses, Mike Nichols (a friend of Moses who drove
Moses to and from the press conference, a two/three day trip)
and I drove around DC visiting some of the sites.
They dropped me off at Union Station around 6:30pm. I took the
188 NE back to New York City, returning the way I came earlier
that day. It had been a long, wonderful, memorable day, meeting
at last, in person, Moses, a Ugandan whom Other Sheep had a
small part in helping. I say a small part, but to Moses, that phone
call he recieved from Other Sheep in response to his urgent email
to me was, at the time, his life line.
How Other Sheep and Moses Connected - see article below
Excerpt: "It had been a long, wonderful, memorable day, meeting at last, in person, Moses,
a Ugandan whom Other Sheep had a small part in helping. I say a small part, but to Mose,
that phone call to Other Sheep was, at the time, his life line." -Rev. Steve Parelli See full
Moses & Rev. Parelli
It is no secret to many of you
that I have never been a fan of the
National Prayer Breakfast. I’m not
comfortable, frankly, with any
event that gives Americans the
false impression that religion and
government in our country are one
and the same.
Left to right: Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Frank Schaeffer, Rt. Rev. V.
Gene Robinson, Bishop Carlton Pearson, Moses of Uganda
Mose of Uganda
Bishop Carlton Pearson
Rt. Rev. V.
Bishop Pearson Moses
Rev. Elder Darlene Garner and Moses
|This is an Other Sheep webpage
|This webpage was created February 3, 2010
in the Bronx, NY, and was published to the
Internet on the same date.
Visitors since February 3, 2010
|Gay and Christian in