Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Capitol Hill, Congressman Forbes is the Point Man for Prayer

As if I needed any more proof as to the GOP's misplaced priorities, this article showed up in today's Virginian Pilot ( Congressman Randy Forbes is an old law school classmate of mine and I certainly knew him during my years in the GOP. He is not a bad guy in general. However, that he and others in Congress are spending time on a Congressional Prayer Caucus while the nation faces many real problems, the economy is roaring towards a recession and millions of American families are faced with losing their homes to foreclosure, is both mind numbing and disheartening. I fully agree with Barry Lynn's (I met him at the 2003 NGLTF Creating Change Conference and was very impressed) view that the motivation behind the Caucus is to give the appearance of a problem existing when there is none. Here are some story highlights:

There are plenty of special interests at work within Congress, and U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes is point man for one of them: the Congressional Prayer Caucus. The caucus, a formal congressional group Forbes founded in 2005 , helps the Chesapeake congressman fight what he calls the “constant, dripping erosion” of the nation’s heritage of prayer and faith. Just last month , the caucus swung into action when an official deleted “God” from a certificate accompanying a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol.

The prayer caucus Forbes founded is probably the first of its kind in congressional history, said Laura Olson , a Clemson University political scientist. The caucus is bipartisan, but most of its 25 members are evangelical Christians representing districts “with sizable populations” of evangelicals, she said. The group includes at least one Jew and one Catholic. The prayer caucus reflects Forbes’ convictions as a Christian who has taught adult Sunday School for 20 years at Great Bridge Baptist Church. “Randy believes that prayer is what changes things and our country needs to be on our knees in prayer,” said the Rev. Allan Campbell , the church’s music minister.

The caucus is separate from the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, a nonprofit that Forbes recently launched to promote prayer by private individuals. Forbes said he spoke for the foundation, not the caucus, when he led a Capitol news conference last March that urged Americans to pray five minutes a week for the nation. The caucus, which has no paid staff, acts as a religious Paul Revere – on watch for challenges to prayer, warning members and arming them with information they can use to fight back.

At Americans United for Separation of Church and State – a group Jones blamed for lawsuits questioning public prayer – the Rev. Barry W. Lynn disputed any need for the caucus. “It was created to give the appearance that if they didn’t protect the right to pray, that right would somehow disappear,” Lynn said. “There’s no war against religion in general or Christianity in this country.”

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