The White House is facing criticism for their decision to invite the Rev. Al Sharpton to the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, while excluding top leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention – the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
Dozens of Christian leaders from around the nation were invited to the East Room Wednesday for a time of prayer and reflection as well as remarks from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.
A White House aide said the heads of major denominations and non-profit leaders were invited – including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church and Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.
However, top leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention were not invited. A spokesman for the SBC confirmed that SBC President Bryant Wright and SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page were not extended invitations. Neither was Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the denomination’s public policy arm.
The White House declined to release a full list of those invited and those in attendance and the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives did not return calls seeking comment.
But the Obama Administration did extend an invitation to Sharpton, the MSNBC host who’s come under fire for his inflammatory statements in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
That drew a sharp rebuke from Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
“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 told Fox News.
He said the White House could be sending a message to Southern Baptists.
“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,” he said.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said the White House is free to invite who they choose to invite.
“My feelings are not hurt,” he told Fox News.
Land also said he was not surprised that the White House invited Sharpton.
“As my east Texas grandmother once said, ‘Birds of a feather tend to flock together,’” he said.
With information from the Associated Press and the White House Pool Report.