President Obama and college football star Tim Tebow are expected to be among the high-profile guests at the invitation-only National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning.
The annual event, attended by every U.S. president since Eisenhower, brings together members of Congress, government officials, foreign diplomats, military, business and religious leaders. Occasionally celebrities attend as well, such as Bono in the past.
Though the event has taken place annually for more than 50 years and attended by influential guests, not much is known about the breakfast until it occurs. The sponsor of the breakfast is the secretive evangelical Christian organization The Fellowship Foundation, also known as The Family. Its members include high ranking U.S. government officials, corporate executives, and heads of religious organizations as well as non-U.S. leaders and ambassadors.
President Obama will attend the breakfast and deliver remarks this year, according to a White House official. He will discuss the need for civility in the public square and on how Americans can work together for the common good. The president will also emphasize the importance of “an openness to compromise” and to “disagree without being disagreeable.”
Other expected attendees from the Obama administration include: First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Joshua DuBois, among others.
Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman trophy winner and an outspoken evangelical Christian, is also expected to attend.
Though organizers of the breakfast always try to keep a low-profile, they were drawn into the controversy surrounding Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Pro-gay activists and some church leaders claim The Fellowship Foundation is directly tied to the bill.
To protest The Fellowship’s alleged involvement, activists and church leaders formed an alternative “inclusive” prayer event called “The American Prayer Hour” that will also take place on Feb. 4.
“The American Prayer Hour events will affirm inclusive values and call on all nations, including Uganda, to decriminalize the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," organizers state.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill seeks to strengthen the criminalization of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who are considered serial offenders, are suspected of "aggravated homosexuality" and are HIV-positive, or who engage in sexual acts with those under 18 years of age.
The bill also targets those who do not report a homosexual within 24 hours of knowledge, which places parents, teachers, landlords, health care workers, media and religious leaders who counsel or work with HIV/AIDS infected persons at risk of imprisonment.
Religious and gay activists have organized alternative prayer events in 17 cities and plan to protest in Washington and Boston.