Note: TYT emailed CWA Tuesday afternoon, sharing details about this report and requesting comment with a deadline of Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, CWA responded that it “just received” TYT’s email “and will correct your information.” TYT delayed publication to accommodate a response, but CWA has not responded to follow-up emails. This article will be updated in the event of a CWA response.

The new chair of the organization that runs the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) is a long-time crusader against LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights and sits on the board of a national organization that lobbies for and promotes a range of far-right causes.

Caroline Aderholt – the wife of Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) – has for years been a leader of the right-wing organization Concerned Women for America (CWA). She is now listed on the NPB Foundation website as the interim chair of its board.

The move came after the abrupt departure this summer of the NPB Foundation’s president, former Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), who had publicly pledged transparency and openness for the new event. As TYT reported, Pryor was pressured by board member and longtime breakfast insider former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) not to respond to TYT’s inquiries.

Started in 1953 by what’s now called the Fellowship Foundation, popularly known as The Family, the National Prayer Breakfast split earlier this year after multiple controversies. The original event, renamed the NPB Gathering, continues at the Washington Hilton, while the NPB Foundation was created to run the ostensibly new NPB on Capitol Hill.

Scaled down to just a few hundred guests, mostly from Congress, the new NPB was branded as a reboot to strip it of politics and the scandals of the original. But the new NPB guidelines were violated in its very first year. And as TYT reported, the NPB Foundation’s board consisted entirely of Family insiders, including Aderholt. Her assent to interim chair is now raising concerns that the board has dropped Pryor’s goal of keeping it free of politics.

Aderholt speaks openly about infusing her religious beliefs into every aspect of life, including politics. And leaders of The Family typically support governing through a religious, Christian lens.

CWA and its legislative action committee deploy lobbyists – who for years reported to Aderholt – to fight against LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. Aderholt has publicly opposed the right to no-fault divorce. (NPB Foundation board members did not respond to TYT’s questions; auto-replies from Aderholt’s account said she had blocked TYT’s email address.)

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Senior Research Analyst RG Cravens told TYT that CWA has its roots in the anti-LGBTQ+ religious right of the 1970s. “It’s not a surprise CWA is integral to the National Prayer Breakfast and the controversy surrounding it,” Cravens said.

CWA has even flirted with election denial, pushing ostensible “voter-integrity” measures, which disenfranchise Black and low-income voters. Aderholt’s husband voted not to certify the election of Pres. Joe Biden and has sided with proponents of the false claim that it was stolen, including backing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as House speaker.

The SPLC also called CWA “a key promoter” of Project 2025, a far-right plan from the Heritage Foundation to replace Democratic personnel in executive branch agencies with conservatives if a Republican wins the 2024 presidential election. CWA is a past partner of the Heritage Foundation.

And CWA occasionally partners with Franklin Graham, one of the most prominent crusaders against LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights in the world.

Pryor had pledged that the new event would not accept funds, as the original did, from Graham, GOP megadonor Ronnie Cameron, or anyone on either extreme of the political spectrum. The new event spun off from the 70-year-old original after years of reporting about how its organizers used it to bolster right-wing networks around the world.

CWA has a record of promoting Graham’s events, and has joined his organizations in amicus curiae briefs on right-wing hot-button issues. On social media, CWA has boosted Graham posts, such as one in 2021 celebrating a legal victory for Catholic adoption agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

As Pryor told TYT in January, Graham and Cameron were not donors to the 2023 NPB, “for this breakfast, at least.” Whether they’d be allowed back in 2024 or beyond, Pyor said, “I can’t speak for the future decisions that the board’s gonna make.”

Concerned Women for America

According to Cravens of the SPLC, CWA was founded in the 1970s by Beverly LaHaye, whose husband co-authored the Left Behind series of Rapture novels. Her children have held leadership roles at CWA and its current chair is LaHaye’s daughter.

CWA touts its genesis as a reaction to feminism. “There were several issues in the Equal Rights Amendment package that were not good for the family,” Aderholt told an interviewer in 2017. “Things like providing no-fault divorce that were harmful for the family.”

CWA’s public ethos of shaping public policy to meet its notions of Biblical values is solidly in line with similarly theocratic beliefs to be found among some Family insiders, the Aderholts included.

At the March 2021 Republican Women of Huntsville Prayer Breakfast, Aderholt explained how she and her husband see their work, on and off Capitol Hill. “We are of the belief that our vocation is our ministry. Our faith informs all aspects of our lives,” she said.

“If we don’t have a nation that fears the Lord,” Aderholt said in the 2017 interview, “then we’re doomed to destruction.”

When her interviewer remarked that “everything is spiritual warfare,” Aderholt responded, “It is.”

Right-wing Biblical exegesis has been at the heart of CWA from the start. A 1978 Los Angeles Times article refers to the “newly formed” CWA as defending “rights of parents to teach their children according to Biblical concepts.”

And the husband of CWA’s founder was more than just an author. Tim LaHaye was part of an emerging movement telling American evangelicals to stop seeing politics and religion as separate.

Cravens notes that “Tim also founded the Council for National Policy.” (Today, the Council for National Policy’s executive director is former Rep. Bob McEwen (R-OH), a longtime Family insider.)

“The gist of the idea was to use conservative religion to fuel a political movement that help[ed] hasten the Second Coming,” Cravens says. Aderholt has espoused similar eschatological views, saying in her 2017 interview, “We have the final victory, so we win in the end.”

Aderholt’s Lobbying

Aderholt joined CWA some time in 2015. Her husband’s congressional disclosure filings show her drawing a salary from CWA through 2018, and she appears to have served as chief of staff for that entire period.

“My specific duty for CWA is really identify and promoting our legislative agenda at CWA,” Aderholt said in 2017. She said the organization’s House and Senate lobbyists reported to her. “I identify the legislation that we as a[n] organization try to affect every year.”

One of CWA’s priorities was ensuring that Hyde Amendment language gets tacked on to any relevant bill, re-enforcing the legal prohibition against using federal money to fund abortions.

CWA disclosure forms filed during Aderholt’s tenure refer to a broad range of political advocacy. Some lobbying veers from CWA’s predominantly right-wing bent. During Pres. Donald Trump’s successful push to cut taxes for the rich, for instance, CWA lobbied in favor of the child tax credit.

Most of its agenda, however, lines up with the evangelical fundamentalist focus on issues around sex and gender. CWA’s boilerplate language for its lobbying priorities under Aderholt listed “[S]upport of traditional marriage, life, traditional values, education, broadcast decency, parental rights, protection of unborn life, common-sense restrictions on abortion [and] … religious liberty…”

Religious liberty, by CWA’s definition, typically refers to the right to discriminate. CWA has, for instance, sought legal protections for health care workers who object on religious grounds to serving patients transitioning gender or in need of gender-affirming care.

In its most recent filing, CWA disclosed lobbying against federal funding for gender-affirming care and against the Pentagon facilitating abortion access for military personnel, as well lobbying to ban abortifacient drugs and make them more difficult to obtain. CWA has called Plan B emergency-contraception drugs “an abomination.”

Legislation and regulation aren’t CWA’s only lobbying priorities. In July 2017, Aderholt said that CWA’s efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, had been a big victory.

“This year, things that we are trying to do is to confirm pro-life judges like Justice Neil Gorsuch,” Aderholt said. “We spent a lot of time this past year working on that, setting up strategy and getting our grassroots ladies involved in that. So that was a very successful activity for us this year.”

Gorsuch, of course, took the seat that Republicans blocked then-Pres. Barack Obama from filling. Gorsuch’s vote has proved vital to the far right across a range of issues central to CWA’s agenda, most notably the overruling of Roe v. Wade.

CWA supported Trump’s other nominees, as well. President and CEO Penny Young Nance appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show to explain that CWA “strongly” supported Judge Brett Kavanaugh, even launching a bus tour, because Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual violence by Kavanaugh had not been proved. The group’s endorsement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett was predicated in part on her commitment to honoring precedent.

Over the years, CWA has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a dark-money organization that backs campaigns to appoint and confirm far-right judges. The Judicial Crisis Network’s 2022 tax filings show a $165,000 donation to CWA for that fiscal year alone.

The Koch family political network reportedly gave CWA more than $10 million in previous years.

And CWA, with its legacy of high-profile ties on the right, has had little problem winning audiences on Capitol Hill. CWA posts include accounts of Aderholt meeting with Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about abortion, and discussing tax reform with Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and then-presidential advisor Ivanka Trump.

Aderholt was also invited to the Trump Health and Human Services announcement of a new division focused on “Conscience and Religious Freedom.” The office was established to help health-care workers evade legal consequences for refusing to assist gender-care and abortion patients.

In 2017, Aderholt took home her largest CWA salary out of her four years there, $71,500. That same year, CWA’s board welcomed new trustee Jon Whetsell, a fellow Alabaman and regular donor to her husband.

Aderholt’s last year on the payroll was 2018. Then, at some point between July 2019 and June 2020, tax filings show, Aderholt joined the CWA board of trustees. She remains on the board today, according to CWA’s website. The chair is Linda Murphy, Beverly LaHaye’s daughter.

The Breakfast

Precisely when Aderholt took over as interim chair of the National Prayer Breakfast has not been made public.

In a Sept. 26 email to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Pryor wrote that he “rotated off 2-3 months ago,” and that the unnamed interim chair “will turn it over to a new chair” after one or two other board members have been replaced. One tax filing lists Aderholt as the NPB Foundation's principal officer as early as April 1, 2022.

Pryor in his email noted that the NPB Foundation website at the time still listed him, in error, as its president. The website has since been updated to disclose Aderholt’s role as interim chair, and Pryor is gone, but the other board members, all with Family ties, are still listed.

While previous Family leader Doug Coe was publicly nonpartisan – Hillary Clinton called him a “loving spiritual mentor” regardless of one’s political party – since his death The Family has become enmeshed in a growing number of right-wing scandals.

As chronicled in a Netflix documentary series based on the work of journalist Jeff Sharlet, some of the people behind the NPB were supporters of Ugandan politicians pursuing the death penalty for LGBTQ+ people. Earlier this year, TYT revealed that The Family’s point man in Uganda was still working with backers of the new law.

In addition to its history bolstering anti-LGBTQ+ networks in Africa, The Family used the National Prayer Breakfast to build right-wing networks in Ukraine and Guatemala, TYT has reported.

One of the few people to interview Coe was Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical Christian and co-author of “Getting Jefferson Right: Fact-Checking Claims About Thomas Jefferson,” a book refuting claims that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation. Throckmorton told TYT, “My impression is that the previous departure of Sen. Pryor and the appointment of Ms. Aderholt signal a move to make the NPB Foundation more a right-wing political advocacy organization than a non-partisan call to prayer.”

Aderholt’s new role is “really sad,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, president of the FFRF Action Fund. The FFRF and a coalition of LGBTQ+, secular, and faith groups had been working with Pryor on issues around the new breakfast.

“We have a lot of concerns about Caroline Aderholt,” Gaylor said. “We know that Rep. Aderholt, her husband, was one of 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results, and often espouses Christian nationalist rhetoric.” By contrast, Gaylor said, “Pryor envisioned a more pluralistic Breakfast.”

As TYT previously reported, no one at the NPB Foundation picked up Pryor’s dialogue with the FFRF and its coalition. The last the coalition heard from the NPB Foundation board was a meeting with Pryor in February.

Jonathan Larsen is TYT’s managing editor. You can find him on Twitter @JTLarsen.