Barack Obama’s attendance of a yearly event hosted by a conservative evangelical group with alleged links to Ugandan anti-gay lawmakers has been criticised by American LGBT campaigners.
It has been a tradition for the president to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast since it was first held in 1953, during the term of Dwight Eisenhower. Mr Obama has spoken at the event five times, and has on one occasion used his speech to talk about gay rights in America and Uganda.
The event is hosted by the Fellowship Foundation, also known as “the Family”, a conservative and evangelical organisation that has been linked to anti-gay legislation worldwide, including Uganda’s Anti-homosexuality Bill.
This year Mr Obama’s speech did not touch on gay rights and he was condemned by LGBT groups for continuing the tradition of speaking at the event.
The Managing Director of LGBT rights group GetEqual criticised Mr Obama for contradicting his inauguration speech, where he defended gay equality, by attending the event. She said: “For another year, President Obama has chosen to set aside his stated values of inclusion in order to attend the National Prayer Breakfast — an event rooted in hatred of LGBT people and covered up by pastries and coffee.”
The White House’s press secretary Jay Carney defended Mr Obama: “I confess that I haven’t focused on this. The president, as his predecessors have, participates in this. He’s not responsible for the views of every organization or person who participates. His views on these issues [...] are quite clear.”
Mr Obama had said in his inauguration speech that “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law”; it was the first time gay rights had been mentioned at a US Presidential inauguration.
In 2010, Mr Obama used the National Prayer Breakfast as a platform to promote gay rights, saying in his speech: “Surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it is here in the United States or… more extremely, in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.”