Tone-Deaf Prayer BreakfastMarch 31, 2010
Prayer breakfasts are supposed to be a time of focusing people on God. When the prayer breakfasts are for politicians, one must be even more careful to keep the events from being partisan. Unfortunately, Republican Representative Todd Akin (Missouri) did not follow that principle recently. When pro-life Democratic Representative Bart Stupak (Michigan) announced that he was voting for the health care reform legislation, Republican Representative Randy Neugebauer (Texas) yelled out "baby killer." Akin then chose Neugebauer to be the speaker at the prayer breakfast just four days after the incident. Democratic leaders in the group were obviously upset. Democratic Representatives Charlie Wilson (Ohio) and Heath Shuler (North Carolina) argued in a letter to Akin:
Your last minute invitation to Rep. Randy Neugebauer to address our group at this morning's breakfast was not only irresponsible, but politically tone-deaf. ... The weekly breakfast should lift us all up, rather than purposefully tear some of us down. ... Your invitation to him, particularly at a time when Mr. Neugebauer was blatantly politicizing his Sunday night outburst, severely undermined the sense of nonpartisan fellowship that Democratic and Republican leaders of the Breakfast have carefully cultivated for years.The charge of "tone-deaf" seems to be quite accurate. To pick the person who was in the news at that very time because of an uncivil partisan outburst was clearly inappropriate for a nonpartisan prayer breakfast. Partisan politics trumped prayer.
The best way to represent the problem appropriately comes in a video of Akin. At a "tea party" rally last fall, Akin led the Pledge of Allegiance--after first suggesting it would upset liberals because it says "under God." However, as the video shows, he was so excited to shout out "under God" that he messed up the Pledge. He left out the word "indivisible" and struggled with the next phrase. Seems like the same thing as the prayer breakfast. He went to shout out at liberals with his choice of a prayer breakfast speaker and thus completely destroyed the unity or sense of being indivisible.