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Pryor’s ‘Family’ affair

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One of the provocative speculations about Sen. Mark Pryor on the Internet is that he belongs to a loosely knit religious-political organization known as “The Family” that has connections to the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Central to its mission is bringing Christ into government and gradually erasing church-state barriers.

Jeffrey Sharlet, a journalist who writes about religious topics, studied “The Family” for a recently published 500-page book that goes by that name.

The group, formed in the 1930s, supposedly has thousands of members, including dozens in Congress and scores of state and local politicians as well. It is also referred to as “The Fellowship,” “The Fellowship Foundation” and “The International Foundation.”

The group has also played a key role in establishing the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a Washington institution that brings together lawmakers and the White House, among others. That, apparently, is where Pryor comes in.

Michael Teague, a key Pryor aide, said conspiracy theorists have spread a mythology about the group that's wrongly linked it to the Arkansas senator solely because of his involvement in the prayer breakfasts.

“These people are the type that read ‘The DaVinci Code' and actually believe it,” Teague said.

Sharlet says Pryor acknowledged his involvement in the organization in a 2007 interview. Teague, who calls Sharlet a “nut job,” says Pryor was never interviewed by the writer.

In a 2003 interview that appeared on the website www.theocracywatch.com, Sharlet said the group's principal concerns were “capitalism and power.” That, of course, doesn't make the group much different than many others vying for influence in Washington.

A number of other senators have ties to the group. The leader of the group, Doug Coe, has been described as an advisor to Sen. Hillary Clinton, but in 2008 her associates took pains to distance herself from him and said she'd never contributed money to the organization.

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