The National Prayer Breakfast, held yesterday here in Washington, is a strange event. It is not held in a church, but in a hotel ballroom. It is not organized by a church or by a coalition of churches, but by a shadowy, quasi-religious organization known as “The Family.” And, most disconcertingly, it places the President in the role of a preacher, the Constitution notwithstanding.
The Prayer Breakfasts began during the Eisenhower Administration. It was the former General who best expressed the lowest common denominator approach to American religious pluralism, famously saying that “government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” This expression of religious indifferentism was inoffensive to most, expressing perfectly that amorphous phenomenon known as “American civic religion.”