On Wednesday, we reported about President Barack Obama's Easter prayer address during which he spoke about Christ's "triumph" in his crucifixion and how the story serves as a personal inspiration. However, following the prayer breakfast there seems to be some confusion regarding who was invited and, more importantly, excluded from being offered an opportunity to attend.
While the Rev. Al Sharpton, known for his sometimes odd commentary and fiery rhetoric, was invited, some mainstream and well-known leaders were left off of the invitee list.
FOX News' Todd Starnes reports that Christian leaders from across the nation were invited to attend the event in the White House's East Room. But the Obama administration is getting some criticism for not inviting some of the most prominent names in the Christian sphere. According to the Southern Baptist Convention, top leaders, including SBC President Bryant Wright and SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, weren't extended an invitation.
Richard Land, too, who serves on the SBC's Religious Liberty Commission, was also not invited. But Land, who is outspoken and never afraid to share his views, claims that his feelings "are not hurt." As for the Sharpton invitation, he said, "As my east Texas grandmother once said, ‘Birds of a feather tend to flock together.'"
The SBC is the nation's most populous Protestant denomination. This fact alone, it would seem, would warrant an invitation for someone within the church. Of course, it is possible that this was merely an oversight. But the failure to send the invitation caused some, like Robert Jeffress, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, to harshly respond (you may recall Jeffrees coming under fire for controversial comments about Mormonism last year).
"It appears that the Obama administration is more interested in the views of race-baiting, black liberation theology spokesmen like Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton than those of mainstream, evangelical Christians," Jeffress said in an interview with FOX News. "To not invite leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast is more evidence of this administration’s tin ear toward evangelical Christians."
Here's footage from Obama's Easter prayer address:
Oddly, the White House has declined to provide a full list of the names of those individuals who were sent invitations. According to Starnes, the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives, too, did not return calls addressing the matter.
A White House aide claims that heads of major denominations and non-profit leaders were invited. Among them, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church and Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.
Planet Washington reports on a wider array of purported guests:
According to the White House aide, among the invited guests were: Pastor Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington DC; Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Orthodox Church; Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta; Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals; Rev. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Rev. Julius Scruggs, President, National Baptist Convention; Noted Christian artist Sara Groves.
Again, it's possible that leaving the SBC out was unintentional. But the inclusion of Sharpton is particularly interesting due to his position at MSNBC, a network that features individuals widely supportive of Obama. Furthermore, Sharpton has been more than vocal about the Trayvon Martin shooting -- a controversial event that continues to divide individuals in the media and public alike.
A press pool of the event did not name the bishop, who was one of about 150 clergymen who attended the prayer event in the White House’s East Room. But multiple sources have since identified him as John R. Bryant, a bishop with the African Methodist Episcopal church in Chicago.
According to April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, Mr. Bryanttold her that Mr. Obama didn’t comment on his attire even as he was shaking his hand.
Taking a divergent stand from Sharpton, Land has been vocal about his opposition to civil rights leaders' handling of the case. On his radio show on Saturday, the SBC leader unleashed his opinions about the matter.
"Rather than holding rallies on these issues, the civil rights leadership focuses on racially polarizing cases to generate media attention and to mobilize black voter turnout," he said. "This is being done to try to gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election and who knows that he cannot win re-election without getting the 95 percent of blacks who voted for him in 2008 to come back out and show they are going to vote for him again."
Of course, the invitations were likely sent before these comments were made. But Land has been no stranger to criticizing the Obama administration. One can't help but wonder if the president invited individuals more friendly to his agenda and administration, while excluding others who have been more critical. But the only way to confirm such a notion would be to secure a list of all attendees. So far, this hasn't been made available.