President Obama presided over the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, marking 60 years that the National Prayer Breakfast has been held, and it ended on an unconventional note with first Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III announcing he had to use the restroom. The event is officially a non-partisan spiritual event. The Washington Post reports that with attacks that President Obama has been trying to limit religious freedom, particularly over the health care debate which requires insurance companies to cover contraceptives, the White House sent out a defense:
- Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.
- No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections. For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception.
- No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible. But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.
- Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy: Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
- Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions. Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.
- Contraception is used by most women: According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.
- Contraception coverage reduces costs: While the monthly cost of contraception for women ranges from $30 to $50, insurers and experts agree that savings more than offset the cost. The National Business Group on Health estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.
The Obama Administration is committed to both respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services. And as we move forward, our strong partnerships with religious organizations will continue. The Administration has provided substantial resources to Catholic organizations over the past three years, in addition to numerous non-financial partnerships to promote healthy communities and serve the common good. This work includes partnerships with Catholic social service agencies on local responsible fatherhood programs and international anti-hunger/food assistance programs. We look forward to continuing this important work.
Attendance as a Washington state guest at the National Prayer Breakfast is $650/person. This is made up of :
1) National Prayer Breakfast events $500 per person (either paid by check made out to National Leadership Seminars, or by credit card information included on your nomination form). Of this, $300 is tax deductible as a donation allowing dignitaries from less affluent countries to attend. This payment will be forwarded to the National Coordinating Office and you will receive a receipt from them. Do not pay for this portion on our website.
2) Washington state guest events totalling $150 per person. Washington state guests have additional events planned around the National Prayer Breakfast. The $150 extra you will pay covers a briefing meeting in the NW Suite, a breakfast on the Hill with Washington state Congressmembers, a Suite brunch and a dinner debrief as well as group transportation to The Cedars, The Hill and The Southeast White House.
As always we appreciate your prompt payment for every event. You may pay your Washington State event balance of $150 per person by credit card. To do so, click here, choose "give now", select "National Prayer Breakfast" from the drop down menu and type in the information requested.
But when leaders gather in the Washington Hilton ballroom on Thursday morning, they won't be the only game in town. The National Prayer Breakfast is about to get "occupied" — sort of.
Just half a mile from the hotel, dozens or perhaps hundreds of a network of clergy and their supporters, part of "Occupy Faith" within the Occupy Wall Street movement, plan to converge for their own "People's Prayer Breakfast."
"We thought prayer shouldn't be used for access to power or to move forward people's agendas," said Brian Merritt, an organizer of the alternative breakfast who is pastor of the city's Palisades Community Church. "Prayer connects us to something greater than ourselves, but also moves us in action for those around us. It challenges us to confront others' needs."
So while dignitaries and the nation's leaders munch on an elaborate meal — a ticket to the formal prayer breakfast has been $650 in past years – the free People's breakfast will entertain a little over 200 people for coffee, danishes, meditation and prayer.
While the National Prayer Breakfast has been accused as being a shadowy event that seeks to create a Christian theocracy, the conservative American Spectator insists it's just about expressing faith and prayer to God for America:
Of course, the National Prayer Breakfast is primarily about schmoozing, not "butt kicking." Exposés like Jeff Sharlet's 2008 book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, have imagined The Fellowship as a high octane push for Christian theocracy. Whatever the fanciful theories about its organizer, the National Prayer Breakfast is a mostly admirable tradition that provokes politicians into at least momentarily expressing high minded religious principles.