Congress organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast
The National Prayer Breakfast, one of the most visible and traditional events bringing religion and politics together in Washington, will no longer be overseen by a private religious group that has organized the event for decades. Instead, lawmakers decided to take over the organization of the prayer breakfast because of concerns that the event evoked too many mixed feelings among many people.
This year’s organizer for the breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, will be the newly created National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, headed by former Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas.
Senator Chris Coons, a regular participant and chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said the move was prompted in part by the fact that members of Congress have not known important details about the breakfast in recent years.
Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, said he and Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, the committee’s vice chairman, have had questions in the past about who was invited and how the money was raised.
“The annual event lasts several days, thousands of people attend, it’s a very large and somewhat complicated organization,” Coons said in an interview. – Questions have arisen about our ability as members of Congress to claim that we know exactly how it was organized, who was invited, how it was funded. Many of us who were in leadership positions couldn’t answer those questions.”
This year, lawmakers decided to take it upon themselves to organize a prayer breakfast.
Pryor, president of the new foundation, said the suspension of the event due to COVID-19 gave members of Congress an opportunity to reassess the importance of the breakfast and return it to its roots – a change he said has been discussed for years.
Pryor said congressmen, the president, vice president and other administration officials, as well as their guests, have been invited to a prayer breakfast to be held Thursday at the Capitol Visitor Center. He expects between 200 and 300 people to attend the breakfast, far fewer than in previous years.
Pryor said he hopes the smaller event will be more of an informal gathering for fellowship and to temporarily bridge political divides.
The prayer breakfast with presidential address is the culmination of a multi-day event now in its 70th year. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to attend the event in February 1953, and every president has spoken at the gathering since.
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