Despite recent controversies around the event, Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-IN) is said to have agreed to co-chair the February 2024 National Prayer Breakfast.
The group that runs the NPB is now headed by a long-time anti-LGBTQ+ crusader. And just this week TYT reported that this year’s co-chair urged Uganda’s National Prayer Breakfast to “stand firm” behind its new anti-LGBTQ+ death penalty law.
Mrvan did not respond to TYT’s questions or request for comment.
The breakfast was spun off from its original iteration earlier this year, after Democrats began shunning the scandal-plagued event. But as TYT reported, the board running the “new” event consisted entirely of NPB veterans and insiders at the group that ran it, the Fellowship Foundation, commonly known as The Family.
Secular and LGBTQ+ groups have for years warned Democrats that participating in prayer breakfasts lends the events a nonpartisan veneer that helps right-wing Family insiders attract wealthy and powerful guests interested in accessing politicians there.
Former Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) had been leading the new event, vowing transparency, ethical reform, and a shift away from The Family. He left this summer under [circumstances[(https://tyt.com/reports/inside-the-family/2023/10/09/Democrat-Out-National-Prayer-Breakfast) that have not been explained publicly.
Pryor’s replacement is Caroline Aderholt, a trustee and former chief of staff at the theocratic, anti-LGBTQ+ organization Concerned Women for America. She and husband Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) are long-time insiders at The Family, which has paid to fly them on trips that included anti-LGBTQ+ events and networking.
Pryor had vowed that the “new” breakfast would no longer accept donations from another anti-LGBQT+ leader, Franklin Graham, and would provide at least some measure of transparency about the event’s financial backing. The NPB Foundation, however, has yet to reveal anything publicly about who paid for the 2023 event or is writing checks for the February NPB Mrvan is co-chairing.
Despite Pryor’s goal of getting “new ideas and new eyes” onto the NPB Foundation board, its website shows everyone but him remains. No one new is listed. (The NPB Foundation stopped responding to requests for comment.)
Mrvan’s 2024 NPB co-chair, Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS), is another long-time Family insider. Mann was one of only three congressional speakers at the Feb. 2, 2023, National Prayer Breakfast even though after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol he voted not to certify legitimate state presidential votes. Mann has worked for an affiliate of The Family, the National Student Leadership Forum, and once served as an intern for Family insider Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS).
Just last year, a Guatemalan spinoff of The Family paid for Mann's travel there to speak at that country’s National Prayer Breakfast. The Family’s Guatemalan allies ran a UN anti-corruption task force out of the country, saving then-Pres. Jimmy Morales from a campaign-finance probe, and more recently have sought to bar the progressive victor of the presidential election from taking office.
Earlier this year, former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) revealed that he and other Family insiders were seeking to prevent “division” with the NPB Foundation. Wamp sits on the NPB Foundation board but continued to be active in The Family’s parallel event, the NPB Gathering.
In his email, Wamp said Family insiders were “upset” at Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), the breakfast’s most visible Democratic advocate. Coons had told the Associated Press, “Some questions had been raised about our ability as members of Congress to say that we knew exactly how it was being organized, who was being invited, how it was being funded. Many of us who’d been in leadership roles really couldn’t answer those questions.”
Mrvan, however, appears to have embraced the secretive approach urged by Wamp. He did not respond to TYT’s questions, nor has he issued a press release confirming his role at next year’s breakfast, which was listed on the NPB Foundation’s website. The questions Coons raised remain unanswered.
And even the new event is still being used to further right-wing causes. Rep. Tim Walberg cited his role as this year’s NPB co-chair in a House ethics filing to justify his October trip to Uganda, paid for by The Family. The purpose of the trip was to deliver the keynote speech at the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast.
Walberg used the occasion to defend Uganda’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act. He encouraged the nation to stand firm against international opposition to the law, which includes the death penalty for "serial offenses." And Walberg urged Ugandans to support Pres. Yoweri Museveni, given that his country’s economy may struggle as a result of international sanctions.
Others on the right used this year’s NPB for political ends, as well.
Interviewed about her attendance, Kari Lake suggested that Pres. Joe Biden will face divine retribution for his “crimes.” Lake’s presence at the event violated rules that Pryor had announced limiting members of Congress to one family guest or a constituent.
A spokesperson for Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said he brought Lake despite her not living in his district. “At no time did Jesus ask where Kari Lake lived before accepting worship,” the spokesperson told TYT.
In a statement last year, Mrvan explained why he let The Family use his name for the 2022 National Prayer Breakfast. He said he agreed "in that spirit of prayer from January 6," 2021, when he and others prayed in the House with Chaplain Margaret Kibben.
Mrvan said his record shows his "unwavering commitment to fight against any form of discrimination, including standing up for members of all religions and members of the LGBTQ community." He added, however, "I will continue to make myself present in any room in order to lend my voice to help bring people together and live up to our mission to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper.”
Mrvan’s service as a Democratic figurehead for the event is noteworthy not just due to the concerns raised by LGBTQ+ groups. It’s also not the House’s turn.
Historically, the event has rotated between House and Senate co-chairs. Typically, one senator each from the two parties co-chairs the event one year. House members co-chair the following year.
Since this year’s was chaired by Walberg and Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), 2024 was expected to have been led by senators.
The Family’s reservoir of Democratic senators, however, has dwindled. Over the last decade, the only Democratic senators to co-chair the National Prayer Breakfast have been Coons, Pryor, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Some Democratic leaders who had shunned the event in the wake of recent scandals did return to this year’s rebranded, revamped event, but that was before Pryor's abrupt departure and before the full extent of The Family’s involvement was known, when national media were incorrectly reporting it was now being run by Congress.
One source who has been close to The Family called it “plausible” that the NPB Foundation board, now led by Aderholt, was unable to get a Democratic senator to be their public face next year.
Jonathan Larsen is TYT’s managing editor. You can find him on Twitter @JTLarsen.