Should President Obama and members of Congress attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast, hosted by the shadowy yet extremely well-connected Christian organization The Fellowship? No way, says [PDF] the government watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who today is urging the president and lawmakers to avoid the group's entreaties and star-studded annual breakfast this Thursday. The Fellowship, also known as The Family, is headed by a spiritual confidante to government figures named Doug Coe who claims to be leading a "spiritual war" for Christ. Its acolytes have included public officials like Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), disgraced South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose close ties with the Fellowship were reported by Mother Jones in 2007.
Like others who've written about the Fellowship, CREW says the secretive group uses its connections and clout to arrange meetings between US and foreign officials behind closed doors, and has told its members, like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), to spread the Fellowship's evangelical mission while on taxpayer-funded trips. The group's National Prayer Breakfast, CREW contends, is merely a chance for the group to draft more members into its ranks and to boost its fundraising coffers. "The president and members of Congress should not legitimatize this cult-like group—the head of which has praised the organizing abilities of Hitler and Bin Laden—by attending the breakfast," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. It's doubtful, however, whether CREW's advice will be heeded: There are no signs that Obama, who spoke at the breakfast last year and is slated to do the same on Thursday, plans to back out.