A prominent good government group is demanding that President Obama and members of Congress skip this year's National Prayer Breakfast, calling its organizer "shadowy" and "cult-like."
The group, Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, lashed out at the fundamentalist Fellowship Foundation, which has organized the breakfast with presidents and prominent Washington and world leaders since 1953.
"The National Prayer Breakfast uses the suggested imprimatur of the elected leaders who attend to give the Fellowship greater credibility and facilitate its networking and fundraising," CREW director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. "The president and members of Congress should not legitimatize this cult-like group -- the head of which has praised the organizing abilities of Hitler and Bin Laden -- by attending the breakfast."
The White House confirmed to the Huffington Post that Obama plans to attend the breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, but had no response to CREW's letter. The Fellowship is closely connected to the now-notorious C Street House near the Capitol -- essentially a dorm for ethically-troubled Republicans.
"For those who have been housed in or sought refuge at C Street House," says Sloan's letter, "a shocking pattern of unethical behavior has emerged, sparking public outrage. For example Senator John Ensign (R-NV), who lived in the house, is being investigated by the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for events surrounding an affair he had with a former campaign staffer and his efforts to cover up that affair by helping her husband, his former chief-of-staff, become a lobbyist in violation of federal law."
The letter also mentions ethical troubles for C Street House guests Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).
Very little is known about the Fellowship. As Newsweek reported last September, "Nothing about its organizational structure is visible to the public: not its board of directors, nor its executive team, nor its mission statement, nor its 200 subsidiary ministries, nor its national or global membership."
Click here for a PDF of CREW's letter.
With reporting by Sam Stein.