February 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
LGBT activists protest National Prayer Breakfast

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Protesters gathered at the Washington Hilton in D.C. on Thursday to denounce the National Prayer Breakfast taking place in the hotel and to shed light on the event organizer’s connection to anti-gay activity in Uganda.

About two dozen activists — affiliated with GetEQUAL, a group responsible for organizing protests and acts of civil disobedience across the country over LGBT issues — participated in what they called a “Breakfast without Bigotry” to draw attention to the Foundation’s work overseas.

The Foundation, also known as “The Family,” is a U.S. evangelical group that reportedly has promoted anti-LGBT views abroad. The organization, which couldn’t be reached for comment for this article, has ties to David Bahati, a lawmaker in Uganda who authored pending legislation that would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Last week, the Uganda anti-gay bill received renewed attention when David Kato, an activist who was working against the pending measure, was brutally murdered after a publication in the country identified him as gay.

Clad in heavy coats and carrying harm-warmers as they braved the February cold, protesters waived Pride flags and held up signs reading “If Christians Kill Kato, They’ll Kill Me” and “David Kato: Brutally Loved to Death by Christian Missionaries.”

Activists chanted, “One, two, three, four, don’t let the Family hide any more,” and, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Uganda bill has got to go.”

As the motorcade approached the Washington Hilton carrying to the event President Obama, who was in attendance at the breakfast, protesters belted out the song, “We Shall Overcome.”

Dan Fotou, eastern region field director for GetEQUAL, said the intent of the protest was to inform the public about the Foundation’s involvement with anti-gay activity abroad in places like Uganda.

“The goal is to educate the attendees [about] not only the Family’s role in this, but also in their role in this Uganda “Kill the Gays” bill and their reach worldwide,” Fotou said. “What they’re really trying to do is annihilate LGBT people.”

Carol Lautier, 42 and a queer D.C. resident, said she was at the protest “as a progressive Christian” and that her views are often unheard among Christian audiences.

“I think it’s important that Christian evangelicals not have the corner market on Christianity,” she said. “We need to enter the conversation that’s being dominated by conservatives.”

Many of the protest participants expressed displeasure with Obama’s participation in the National Prayer Breakfast. U.S. presidents have taken part in the breakfast consistently since the Eisenhower administration.

During his remarks at the event, Obama emphasized the importance of his faith as a guiding force for him during his presidency.

“And it is my faith, then, that biblical injunction to serve the least of these, that keeps me going and that keeps me from being overwhelmed,” Obama said. “It’s faith that reminds me that despite being just one very imperfect man, I can still help whoever I can, however I can, wherever I can, for as long as I can, and that somehow God will buttress these efforts.”

The president made no mention of Uganda or the Foundation’s ties to anti-gay initiatives abroad during his remarks.

Fotou said he would prefer Obama didn’t participate in the breakfast and would stand on the side of those who were critical of the gathering.

“It gives prestige to this breakfast,” Fotou said. “So, I would rather that they didn’t raise their stature worldwide by attending and speaking. I would ask that he didn’t [attend] this morning and breakfasts in the future.”

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, noted that the president has spoken out against the killing of Kato and alluded to the Uganda anti-gay bill last year during his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.

“As you heard this morning, the President used this opportunity to reflect on how his faith has sustained him over the last few years,” Inouye said. “It’s worth noting that it was at this venue that last year the president strongly condemned the proposed legislation in Uganda.”

Last week, in response to the murder of Kato, Obama issued a statement that “LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights” and recommitted his administration to “strongly support[ing] human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad.”

But protester Janelle Mungo, 23, a straight D.C. resident, said speaking about the protest last year shouldn’t be enough for Obama.

“I think the fact that he spoke against the bill last year isn’t enough,” she said. “He should be speaking out against the breakfast, and not be there.”

At the beginning of the protest, activists positioned themselves on the sidewalk directly in front of the Washington Hilton, but later situated themselves across the street after D.C. police directed them to move.

Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL, said police told protesters they had to move from their initial position because they lacked a permit.

“We went to get a protest permit last week and we were told that we didn’t need one because we were going to be on public property rather than the private property of the hotel,” she said. “The police are now telling us — apparently at the request of Secret Service — that we had to be across the street.”

Cronk added that she knows Secret Service directed D.C. police to move the protesters because the officers were overheard discussing the Secret Service’s involvement in the decision.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • “Can anybody find me somebody to [HATE]?”

  • No you will never be satisfied. Why dont you grow some cahones & go demonstrate against say a muslum group . Oh right they play for keeps, they would just as soon kill you on the spot .Wait I got it , make an obscene depiction of Mohammed , the way some of you like to do to Jesus! Nope , thats too dangerous too . Well lets go back to the easy stuff,& blame the Christians; doesn’t matter most people dont take us seriously, we’ll demonize who ever else doesn’t agree with us anyway . (Except muslims of course ; too scary!)

    • it seems that Christian america has done a fine job demonizing Muslims and other arabs (because guess what, they’re Not all muslim) on their own, but its exactly what the vast majority of americans have come to expect from any group that seeks activism through organized religion. Regardless, this protest has nothing to do with the fact that this foundation is a christian one and everything to do with the fact that they are tying their horse to an egregious violation of human rights. Perhaps next time you decide to leave a comment you will first make sure that you understand the central focus of the article you are critiquing. Maybe next time they’ll put a fatwah on your head.

  • If you could get an editor, that’d be great. Unless they really did use harm-warmers instead of hand-warmers in their protest to protect them from the cold.

  • And nobody noticed.

    Simply trying to get attention, in a self-serving attempt to raise money, continues to neuter GetEqual and their silly stunts.

    This little “action” didn’t change any minds or garner any support. Thankfully, it won’t raise any money, either.

  • Were the first four commentors on this page all directed here by the same website/blog? With the possible exception of K they all seem to miss the point of this story or purposely rail against it.

  • It has always been interesting that the “The Foundation” or the Family have operated in secret for so many years and have shamed the members of Congress and the WhiteHouse into participating in their nefarious activities while trying to hide their bigotry. For the Prayer breakfast they emerge from theirs cave in Arlington to masquerade as mainstream Christians but in secret they are always plotting against human rights for people they disagree with.

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