President Obama: Remarks at National Prayer Breakfast. Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C.

This annual inter-faith and faith-based event, drawing together high level politicians, diplomats, dignitaries, clergy and media, is supposed to be about God and humanity and peace and goodwill, which is why it generally gets little press. This year’s National Prayer Breakfast got into politics more than usual, and got plenty of press.

The buzzword in many headlines was ‘civility’, as in what President Obama called for in his address.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got a mention in most articles, mainly because she denounced Uganda for legislation aimed at homosexuals, although Clinton was the keynote speaker. You’d never know by the reporting.

But her remarks, echoed by Obama, fuled the fired up rhetoric online within the LGBT community, who were already angry about the evangelical Christian group sponsoring this prayer breakfast (kind of an odd thought there….politics and anger and a prayer and all).

“Mr. Obama struck similar tones to previous speeches in which he has called for civility, including his appearance last year at the National Prayer Breakfast. He acknowledged that politics has always been messy, saying: “We shouldn’t over-romanticize the past.”“But there is a sense that something is different now, that something is broken, that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should,”

Mr. Obama said. “At times, it seems like we are unable to listen to one another, to have at once a serious and civil debate. This erosion of civility in the public square sows division and cynicism among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion.”

Some thoughts at this point….

Seems like whoever the president was addressing this event in past years, the message was always uplifting and encouraging, affirming the tradition and in fact need of core humanitarian values derived from faith for a moral society to serve the common good and take care of ‘the least of these’. I heard President George W. Bush address the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast with admiration for the “armies of compassion” that good people of faith represent in the smaller communities that make up America. Even last year, in his first address to the National Prayer Breakfast as president, Obama delivered an inspiring message based fundamentally on the Golden Rule.

“We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

But backing up just one paragraph before those lines, he said this:

“But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.”How can he make that assertion, stated as a certainty and a conviction, and expand access and funding for abortion since his first day as president?

Speaking of which….Tim Tebow was at the National Prayer Breakfast, too.

He gave the closing prayer.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....