The National Prayer Breakfast is a tradition that dates back almost 70 years. The ceremony started with then-President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was skeptical about going to a prayer breakfast, but evangelist Billy Graham told him it was the right decision. Since its inception in 1953, the event has grown and remains one of Washington’s most popular annual events. The breakfast usually takes place on the first Thursday in February.

Typically, the event hosts about 3,000 people from around the globe. Each guest receives an invitation from various organizations. The purpose of the breakfast is for the president to share their faith. However, there is one organization that wants to put an end to the National Prayer Breakfast.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, also known as FFRF, an atheist activist group based in Wisconsin, allegedly reached out to every member of Congress who sponsored the 2021 event. In that correspondence, the FFRF urged each member to abandon stop plans for future prayer breakfasts. The National Prayer Breakfast has long brought out the anger of atheist activists who wish to see fewer instances of these gatherings.

According to the FFRF, members of Congress who sponsor or attend the event in their official capacity are carelessly sending a message that their office endorses the event’s religious statement. The FFRF also highlighted “scandals” seen by non-believers as so challenging they should prohibit members of Congress from participating. FFRF Director of strategic response Andrew Seidel says that the National Prayer Breakfast includes Russian spies, Christian nationalists, and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. The Russian spy that Seidel refers to is Russian agent Maria Butina. Butina attended the National Prayer Breakfast in 2016 and 2017. She claims that other Russians at the event created backchannel communication from Russia to the United States.

The National Prayer Breakfast is organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a non-profit Christian organization. The FFRF takes issue with that sentiment as well. According to the FFRF, the Fellowship Foundation has had disturbing relationships with dictators worldwide and actively exports anti-LGBTQ legislation and policy. So should the National Prayer Breakfast take place annually? When he became president, Dwight Eisenhower felt that the country needed a spiritual renewal. For Eisenhower, free enterprise, faith, and patriotism were the fundamentals of a strong nation. However, faith was the most important of the three. Eisenhower said that all free government is firmly founded in a deeply felt religious faith at the first National Prayer Breakfast.

The country that we know today needs spiritual renewal. Often, people are required to hide their religion or not discuss it. The National Prayer Breakfast allows the president and members of Congress to fellowship and discuss matters of spiritual significance. Members of Congress spend a lot of time arguing about legislation and policies. This breakfast is the chance for them to put that aside and discuss faith. It’s almost something like a reprieve. Atheists may take issue with this, but the president and members of Congress are regular people. They shouldn’t have to hide their faith because of the position they hold. The National Prayer Breakfast tradition should continue and grow stronger each year.

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