December 21 2009 1:40 PM ET
Legislation that would criminalize homosexuality in Rwanda is also starting to receive attention — does the Family have similar outreach in that country? Or is this legislation arising for different reasons?
The Family does have a relationship with Rwanda. Paul Kagame, the president since the genocide, has been a guest at the Family's Arlington, Va., mansion. His predecessor, the Rwandan leader whose assassination, along with that of Burundi's leader — the event that sparked the genocide — was on his way to a Family meeting when he was shot out of the air. But the relationship is not, as far as I know, as deep as that with Uganda. Still, I hope they'll use what influence they have to stand against this. There's no question that these views are a virus — the original draft of the bill stated that it was intended as a model for other nations.
As for different reasons: I'd say many reasons. There's more at play here than American evangelicalism.
Given what has transpired in Uganda, should Obama attend the National Prayer Breakfast in February?
I don't think any U.S. president should attend a privately organized and funded sectarian event, secretly presided over by a leader who is on record and on video talking about the leadership lessons of Hitler. The planning documents of this ostensibly ecumenical event declare: "Anything can happen, the Koran could even be read, but JESUS is there! He is infiltrating the world." Citizens are entitled to that view. But they're not entitled to de facto government endorsement of it.
The first president to attend, Eisenhower, did so under political pressure and said he hoped it wouldn't become a tradition. It might not have had the next president, John F. Kennedy, not been compelled to attend to prove to evangelicals that his Catholicism wouldn't be a barrier between them. It's worth noting that Jackie refused to go. Every president since has found in the Prayer Breakfast a platform for publicly banal and privately powerful engagements with American religious figures and the foreign leaders the Family chooses to invite to the many off-the-record events that surround the breakfast. This simply isn't a "National Prayer Breakfast"; it's a lobbyist's dream. If the American people want a National Prayer Breakfast, fine — let Congress appropriate funds and designate a national-level agency to run it. And let the Supreme Court deal with the First Amendment issues that will follow.