Tea partiers skip prayer and Pledge of Allegiance at opening of national convention.

Tea Party Protesters The inaugural National Tea Party Convention began yesterday in Nashville, TN despite teabagger infighting and controversy surrounding the event in recent weeks. Tea Party activists have criticized the “scammy” convention’s cost, organizer Judson Phillips’ intention to make money of the event, and Sarah Palin’s $120,000 speaking fee. Just last week, Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) withdrew from their speaking engagements at the convention. And today, the Washington Post reports that the teabaggers — who often boast of their patriotic bona fides — got off to a slow start:

And outside the convention hall, entrepreneurs sold souvenirs: sterling silver tea bag necklaces ($89.99), bags of “Freedom Coffee” ($9) and T-shirts emblazoned with a bald eagle ($20).

The convention’s first day lacked the orchestrated staging of most modern political events. The convention host delivered a meandering welcome speech without notes, saying he misplaced them. Former congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) offered a fiery defense of Judeo-Christian faith and traditional American values, but there was no prayer or Pledge of Allegiance to open the convention — nor was there an American flag in the convention hall. (Skoda blamed the oversight on the hotel staff.)