President Joe Biden emphasized the importance of unity and diplomacy in his address at the National Prayer Breakfast, urging leaders to treat disagreements with respect and not as enmities. He expressed gratitude for the freedom of religious practice in the U.S. and highlighted ongoing efforts for peace in various global conflicts, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the situation in Ukraine. Biden also condemned hate and discrimination, emphasizing the need to uphold the nation’s commitment to unity. The National Prayer Breakfast has changed, with a scaled-down version held on Capitol Hill and a separate event at the Washington Hilton, reflecting a restructuring following controversies and security concerns.
Religion News Service:
“Not only do we pray for peace, we are actively working for peace, security, dignity for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people,” he said. “I’m engaged in this day and night, working as many of you in this room are, to find the means to bring our hostages home, to ease the humanitarian crisis and to bring peace to Gaza and Israel — an enduring peace with two states for two peoples — just as we worked for peace, security and dignity for the Ukrainian people as they show incredible resolve and resilience against Putin’s aggression. We must continue to help them.”
Opposition to the National Prayer Breakfast, especially its location on Capitol Hill, comes from advocates of church-state separation who argue it gives the appearance of government endorsement of a Christian event. Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation criticized the use of the Capitol for a “Christian-dominated event,” stating it resembles a theocracy rather than a secular republic. Rachel Laser from Americans United for Separation of Church and State questioned the presence of chaplains in Congress and the necessity of a National Prayer Breakfast, highlighting concerns about the separation of church and state.
Religion News Service:
“As the Senator Chaplain opens the National Prayer Breakfast w/a sermon, American flags as his backdrop, I ask again: Why do we have chaplains in Congress? Why do we have a National Prayer Breakfast? Church-state separation protects religion as much as taxpayers’ religious freedom.”
At the event, tenor Andrea Bocelli performed religious songs, including the Lord’s Prayer and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” President Biden, a Roman Catholic, emphasized unity in his remarks, invoking the lyrics of “On Eagle’s Wings” and calling for dignity and respect despite ideological differences.
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