By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
James Dobson vowed to stay away from politics when he began his speech at the annual National Day of Prayer event in Washington D.C. on May 1.
“This is not what we are here for, to talk about who we elect and parties and all that,” said Dobson, founder of the conservative group Focus on the Family. “We just don’t do that. That’s not what the National Day of Prayer is all about.”
But that’s exactly what he didn’t do. Using morality as a pretext, he called President Barack Obama “the abortion president.”
“President Obama, before he was elected, made it very clear that he wanted to be the abortion president,” Dobson said. “He didn’t make any bones about it…. This is something that he really was going to promote and support, and he has done that, and in a sense he is the abortion president.”
Rep. Janice Hahn stood up, pointed her index finger at the speaker and told him, “This is inappropriate, before walking out on Dobson.
“The annual National Day of Prayer is supposed to be a day, where the whole country, regardless of faith or party affiliation, unites to pray for our nation,” said Hahn in a statement. “I was appalled and offended by Mr. Dobson’s extremely inappropriate and divisive rants about the President and felt they had no place in this nonpartisan forum, so I stood up and walked out, after telling him that his remarks were inappropriate.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Dobson hijacked the National Day of Prayer — this nonpartisan, nonpolitical event — to promote his own distorted political agenda.”
After Hahn left, Dobson went on to read a letter that proclaimed that, “The creator will not hold us guiltless if we turn a deaf ear to the cries of innocent babies.”
“So come and get me, Mr. President, if you must,” Dobson concluded. “I will not yield to your wicked regulations.”
The event, sponsored by Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, was organized by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, whose chairwoman is Shirley Dobson, James Dobson’s wife.
Some people question whether a National Day of Prayer should take place rather than maintaining the separation of church and state in government. Others believe that conservative agendas are bound surface in a room likely to be filled with an evangelical Christian majority.
However, Hahn sees such events as an opportunity to work across the aisle to find things that unite the parties, especially within the House of Representative, which often is divided by politics.
“I think that’s why I was so upset,”said Hahn in an interview. “I have tried to work across the aisle to find things that unite. Dr. Dobson clearly was advancing the political agenda that divides.
“Sometimes, even I have to express my displeasure for some of the political rants that go on back here.”In an interview, Hahn, who also is a co-chair for a weekly prayer breakfast in Congress, said that she had just participated as national co-chair for a successful National Prayer Breakfast event in February, where more than 200 people from across the country participated.
“I assumed it was a same objective: non-political, non partisan,” Hahn said. “I was unprepared to have the speaker bash on our president on a day I thought was inappropriate to do that. So, it caught me by surprise.
I wasn’t going to sit through his political rants against our president and our National Day of Prayer.”
On May 7, Hahn sent Dobson a letter requesting an apology to Congress members for his behavior:
Dear Dr. Dobson,
I am writing to you concerning last week’s National Day of Prayer. Although I publicly stated why I strongly believe the event should not be politicized, I never directly discussed it with you.
I am a person of strong faith, which comes from my family – including my grandparents who were missionaries in Japan. My parents ensured that I had a Christian education, and as a result, my faith is a strong guide for me professionally and personally. As a young mother in the 1980s, I listened to your radio show Focus on the Family regularly and read Dare to Discipline faithfully.
When I won my Congressional seat in a special election, I immediately joined the Congressional Prayer Breakfast. In this weekly breakfast, Democrats and Republicans put aside their political beliefs for an hour each week. We sing hymns, pray for each other, and hear the testimonies of Members of Congress. For over the last year, I have been the co-chair of the breakfast with Rep. Louie Gohmert. Together, we chaired the National Prayer Breakfast this past February—where 5000 people attend from over 120 countries. Louie and I are on different sides of the political spectrum and never agree on policy matters. But, we came together for this event and attendees could tell that we are true friends—we projected the spirit of unity even though we differ on politics.
Last week, when I attended the National Day of Prayer, I expected a day to bring people in our nation and Congress together. Instead, your remarks were divisive, and I thought inappropriate for this non-partisan event.
You also missed what the American public wants – the end of partisan bickering and coming together for our great nation. We can always find things that divide us. It is harder — but more rewarding — to find common ground.
I hope in the future you can put aside your agenda and work to bring the American people together to pray for our country at events such as the National Day of Prayer.
I think you owe the Members of Congress who took time out of their busy day to attend an apology. That would be the first step in healing a wound that you inflicted with your disrespectful and inappropriate speech.