Eyes on Biden and the message of unity at Thursday’s national prayer breakfast
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is expected to address the National Prayer Breakfast, a Washington tradition that calls on political fighters to put their differences aside for a morning.
The breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, has sparked controversy in the past, particularly when President Donald Trump used last year’s down payment to slam his political opponents and question their faith. Some Liberals viewed the event with suspicion because of the Conservative faith group that supported it.
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Still, Biden campaigned for the White House as someone who could unify Americans, and the breakfast will give the country’s second Catholic president a chance to speak about his vision of the faith. Delaware Democrat and longtime ally of Biden, Senator Chris Coons, said the event will be “an inclusive and positive event” that “recognizes the teachings of Jesus but is not limited to Christianity.”
Coons also told reporters that Biden’s remarks would take a different turn from Trump’s.
“There have been significant changes in tone and focus from President Obama to President Trump which I hope and expect will be a different tone and focus under President Biden,” said Coons, honorary co-chair of this year’s gathering.
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Every president has attended the breakfast since Dwight D. Eisenhower made his first appearance in 1953. The event is expected to be virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Coons suggested Biden would appear via taped remarks.
Breakfast advances at a time when the nation’s capital faces a series of historic crises. Biden is struggling to gain significant support from Republicans in Congress for a set of coronavirus responses, increasing the likelihood that he will be relying only on Democrats to pass the legislation.
Many in Washington are still sailing in the aftermath of the deadly insurgency on the United States Capitol last month. Trump faces an unprecedented second Senate impeachment trial next week for his role in inciting the riot.
Biden’s message on Thursday will likely represent his latest call to bring Washington back to a more traditional basis after four years of Trump’s aggressive style. At the 2020 breakfast, Trump singled out Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who voted to convict the president in the first impeachment trial. Trump even held up a newspaper with the headline “ACQUITTED” in his own photo.
See also (September 2020): Trump looks into wedge abortion in late pre-election campaign for Catholic voters
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, co-chair of this year’s GOP breakfast, said he hoped to see Biden highlight the nation’s status as a “place of diversity and tolerance” that at the same time enables a respectful disagreement.
Scott, like Coons, cited as a model the regular faith-based gatherings that attract senators from both ends of the ideological spectrum. “We don’t agree philosophically, politically, but we embrace each other as brothers of the faith,” Scott, who is also expected to make virtual breakfast remarks, said in an interview.
The breakfast has been shunned by gay and civil rights activists since President Barack Obama’s administration, with much of the opposition focusing on the Fellowship Foundation, the conservative faith-based organization that has long supported the ‘event. Religious liberals staged a protest outside Trump’s first appearance in 2017, criticizing his limitations on refugee admissions to the United States, and a Russian gun rights activist convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent attended the breakfast twice during its administration.
Keywords (February 2017): Trump at prayer breakfast: ‘Don’t worry’ about difficult phone calls
Norman Solomon, co-founder and national director of the progressive militant group RootsAction, warned Biden not to “tackle any aisle of bigotry.”
“We don’t need unity with bigotry,” Solomon said. “I’m afraid that a subtext of this pledge is, ‘Can’t we all get along. “But that’s not appropriate in this case given the well-known right-wing and anti-gay past of the event’s sponsors.
Solomon said Democratic presidents have continued the tradition of attending an event where their Republican counterparts often felt more comfortable because they feared being labeled as “anti-religious or non-religious.” He said Biden, a devout Catholic who attends mass every week, could better send a unifying message by skipping the event and attending a truly bipartisan event.
“God knows there are many religious leaders and congregations who are pious and affirm human equality,” he said. “He’s not one of them.”
Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, agreed that “there are much better ways” than breakfast for Biden to connect with people based on spiritual beliefs. shared.
“We would like to work with the administration to find a way to change the sponsorship of an event like this and make it a place for Americans of all faiths,” Laser said.
Still, Democratic leaders, aware of Biden’s devout faith and his calls for healing, have largely refrained from publicly commenting on the event this year. Florida Representative Val Demings, who was shortlisted to be Biden’s running mate, has delivered the closing prayer at the event in the past and is one of many Democratic members of Congress planning to attend. .
Laser and Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a member of the faith initiative of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, pointed to Christian symbolism seen during the Capitol riot last month as an opening for Biden to offer language pluralist and open to faith.
“I hope President Biden recognizes that we are in a new moment,” said Graves-Fitzsimmons, “and that the threat of Christian nationalism is a threat to both the sacred religious pluralism of the United States and to the Christianity. ”