President Obama followed in the footsteps of every president since FDR and spoke this morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, an event organized by the secretive, conservative organization “The Fellowship” (or, “The Family”). The group and many of its members had been connected to an anti-gay death penalty law currently under debate in Uganda. (North Carolina’s Shuler and McIntyre were also connected to the group.)
Obama addressed the controversy in his speech at the breakfast. He said (emphasis added):
Challenging each other’s ideas can renew our democracy. But when we challenge each other’s motives, it becomes harder to see what we hold in common. We forget that we share at some deep level the same dreams — even when we don’t share the same plans on how to fulfill them.
We may disagree about the best way to reform our health care system, but surely we can agree that no one ought to go broke when they get sick in the richest nation on Earth. We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree on 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 is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.
Surely we can agree to find common ground when possible, parting ways when necessary. But in doing so, let us be guided by our faith, and by prayer. For while prayer can buck us up when we are down, keep us calm in a storm; while prayer can stiffen our spines to surmount an obstacle — and I assure you I’m praying a lot these days — (laughter) — prayer can also do something else. It can touch our hearts with humility. It can fill us with a spirit of brotherhood. It can remind us that each of us are children of a awesome and loving God.
Led by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, activists across the nation are organizing an LGBT-friendly response to the National Prayer Breakfast. Their “American Prayer Hour” will encompass several events in nearly two dozen cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York City and Washington, D.C. (No events are planned for cities in North or South Carolina, although community members in Charlottesville, Va., will host one.)
Truth Wins Out in a press release today praised Obama for addressing the Ugandan controversy at his National Prayer Breakfast appearance.
“The easy and safe course would have been for President Obama to remain silent,” Besen said. “Instead, he walked into The Family’s house and held them accountable for their actions in Uganda. It was a huge victory for human rights and the president’s actions were courageous and honorable.”
For more on the American Prayer Hour visit americanprayerhour.org.
UPDATE: Four U.S. senators have introduced a resolution condemning the anti-gay bill in Uganda and similar pieces of legislation across the globe:
FEINGOLD, COBURN, CARDIN, COLLINS INTRODUCE RESOLUTION CONDEMNING UGANDA ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL AND SIMILAR EFFORTS WORLDWIDE
Bipartisan Resolution Urges All Countries to Reject and Repeal Laws Criminalizing Homosexuality
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced a resolution calling on members of the Ugandan Parliament to reject the so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” The bill, which was introduced in the Ugandan parliament in October 2009, would expand penalties for homosexuality in Uganda to include the death penalty, and require citizens to report information about homosexuality to the police or face imprisonment. In addition to condemning the proposed legislation in Uganda, the bipartisan resolution also urges all countries around the world to reject and repeal similar laws that criminalize homosexuality, and encourages the United States Department of State to closely monitor human rights abuses that occur because of sexual orientation. In addition to the proposed bill in Uganda, there are laws on the books in nations around the world criminalizing homosexuality. In several countries including Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, the penalty for homosexuality includes the death penalty.
The resolution reads:
Calling on members of the Parliament in Uganda to reject the proposed ‘‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’’, and for other purposes.
Whereas a bill introduced on October 14, 2009, by a member of Parliament in Uganda would expand penalties for homosexuality to include the death penalty and requires citizens to report information about homosexuality to the police or face imprisonment;
Whereas many countries criminalize homosexuality, and in some countries, such as Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, the penalty for homosexuality includes the death penalty;
Whereas the United States, in seeking to promote the core American principles of equality and ‘‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,’’ has long championed the universality of human rights;
Whereas religious leaders in the United States, along with representatives from the Vatican and the Anglican Church, have stated that laws criminalizing homosexuality are unjust; and
Whereas the people and Government of the United States recognize that such laws undermine our commitment to combating HIV/AIDS globally through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by stigmatizing and criminalizing vulnerable communities: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) calls on members of the Parliament in Uganda to reject the ‘‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’’ recently proposed in that country;
(2) urges the governments of all countries to reject and repeal similar criminalization laws; and
(3) encourages the Secretary of State to closely monitor human rights abuses that occur because of sexual orientation and to encourage the repeal or reform of laws such as the proposed ‘‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’’ in Uganda that permit such abuses.