1953 February 5

President Eisenhower Speaks at First National Prayer Breakfast

 

President Dwight Eisenhower spoke at the first National Prayer Breakfast, held on this day in Washington, D.C. The breakfast has since become an annual event and every president since has spoken at it. The breakfast is organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a conservative Christian group, but is “hosted” by members of the Congress, making it potentially a government-sponsored religious activity in violation of the Establishment Clause (it depends on whether it is officially sponsored by some members or Congress as a body). The secretive Fellowship is also referred to as “The Family.” The Prayer Breakfast was part of a national effort to promote religion, which included adding the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance on June 14, 1954.

For its first fifteen years, the breakfast was sex-segregated, with separate events in different rooms for men and women. President Richard Nixon was the first to preside over a gender-integrated breakfast.

Read Eisenhower’s remarkshttp://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=9851&st=&st1=

Learn more about the corporate role in promoting religion in the 1950s: Kevin Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (2015)

Read about “The Family”: Jeff Sharlet, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (2008)

Learn more about the context of the times: Jeremy Gunn, Spiritual Weapons: The Cold War and the Forging of an American National Religion (2009)

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