images-1thumbnail-1.thumbnail.jpgLos Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, polyglot and multi-faithed. Yet when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted the Mayor’s prayer breakfast on Valentine’s Day, you would have thought this city was the glittering buckle of the Bible Belt.

The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast has been a tradition for 36 years.

Since 1973, when Mayor Tom Bradley asked area pastors to meet with him in prayer for the city, civic and religious leaders have gathered annually to celebrate God’s blessing and seek His guidance and protection for our city and her leaders.

The breakfasts are widely attended by a racially diverse group, reflecting Los Angeles’ melting pot. But tickets are distributed through churches and nonprofits to primarily evangelical Christians. And this year there were only evangelical pastors on the program, giving the wrongful illusion that the city is evangelical (a quick drive around might dispel that idea). Having only evangelical pastors on the program also gives sole endorsement to their ideas.

This year, Pastor Rick Warren was the keynote speaker, and Dr. Jack Hayford was Master of Ceremony. Hayford is the founder of the Church on the Way, a Four Square Gospel Church–which considering Aimee Semple McPherson grew the congregation in LA and made it a showcase of outrageouseness–makes sense. Hayford seeks:

to grow Bible-centered and Holy Spirit-filled disciples through the development of resources from the ministry of Pastor Jack Hayford by their distribution through every possible means and media.

Other religious participants included Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of the Faithful Central Bible Church ("Building Champions for Divine Deployment"), Pastor Jim Tolle of the Church on the Way ("exists as a local congregation to witness to the world of God’s love as revealed in His Son Jesus Christ, our crucified, risen, exalted and soon-returning King").

The program also included Police Chief William Bratton, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, local Fox News anchor (and appropriately named for this gathering) Christine Devine, and Rosey Grier. The Salvation Army Band performed.

According to the Los Angeles Times’ report, Pastor Rick discussed his mission to Africa to work against AIDS and other diseases and of the diversity of his parish in Orange County–why 64 languages are spoken and 48,000 people attended 16 services where he preached. He also admitted that

sometimes I’m a little controversial.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s choice of Rick Warren as speaker runs counter to the mayor’s pro-gay stance. Warren has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and supported Proposition 8. He is also anti-women’s right to choose, and a non-stop self-hype machine, casting himself in the role of a modern, cool Christian. Warren was described on the prayer breakfast website as:

Dr. Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," is a global strategist, innovator, philanthropist and pastor

so it looks like he’s placing his pastorial duties last in life. What would Jesus say?

At the breakfast, Mayor Villaraigosa acknowledged his own support of gay marriage, mentioning that he had performed marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. He also spoke about his support of "a woman’s right to choose, adding:

We may not agree on marriage. But we can agree that all of us deserve basic civil rights. We may not agree on Roe vs. Wade, but we all want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortion.

This was slightly undermined by County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who praised Warren as

a pastor who believes in traditional marriage

and congratulated Los Angeles officials for

the courage to say no to political correctness

and welcomed Rick Warren as being someone who is:

not ashamed of his savior Jesus Christ.

Despite the city’s large Roman and Orthodox Catholic population, no Catholic clergy offered prayers. Also noticeably missing: Rabbis from the numerous Jewish congregations which range from Orthodox to Reform, Conservative to Traditional and Messianic. Despite a growing Islamic community, no imans were present, nor were there any representatives of the city’s Sikh, Hindu or Buddhist communities. No one ever expects pagans to be invited anywhere, anyway, so no big surprise there.


[T]he prayer breakfast demonstrates the community’s concern for the spiritual well-being of our public officials, and for the moral tone of our community

it seems the Mayor has forgotten a huge sector of the city’s population, and maybe has overlooked the establishment of religion clause in the Constitution.

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.