The annual anachronism known as the National Prayer Breakfast attracted its usual array of clergy, military, and political leaders in Washington on 7 February. Most prominent of all, of course, was Donald Trump, who used the de facto pulpit to call for outlawing abortion, among other positions dear to the Religious Right.
Yet the presidential comment that most typified all that has gone morally haywire with the supposedly moral majority came when Trump praised the "abolition of civil rights". You can consider that statement an innocent, if embarrassing, misreading of the Teleprompter. Or you can hear it as a Freudian slip.
As inspired by the Reverend Billy Graham and originated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, the National Prayer Breakfast served two consensual, almost anodyne purposes. It epitomized the moderate, mid-century civil religion that preached that an American was a better citizen for believing in God and going, at least occasionally, to church or synagogue. And amid the Cold War, American leaders insistently portrayed their nation's collective faith confronting what was routinely called "godless Communism".