GOP Lawmakers Push State Department for Answers About Taxpayer-Funded Atheism Grant Program

U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a meeting with President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea in the State Dining Room of the White House on May 21, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

House Republicans are doubling down on their efforts to figure out why President Joe Biden’s State Department is funding atheism abroad.

Seventeen Republican lawmakers, led by Republican Study Committee Chairman (RSC) Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), sent a second letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday about a program that would award grants of up to $500,000 of taxpayer funds “to organizations committed to the practice and spread of atheism and humanism, namely in South/Central Asia and in the Middle East/North Africa.” Banks sent the first letter on June 30, which he said went unanswered.

In a statement, Banks said he thinks “the Biden State Department is hiding the extent of its woke radicalism.”

“Their inexcusable support for atheist groups in Central Asia puts them in league with the Chinese Communist Party and violates Americans’ core principles,” the congressman continued. “When Republicans retake the majority, we need to stop the radical left from spending Americans’ taxdollars on anti-American initiatives.”

In the second letter, lawmakers re-listed the twelve questions they had originally asked the State Department to answer about the program. They also noted that many of their constituents have reached out with concerns about the agency’s promotion, not only of atheism, but of humanism, “an official believe system — as well as the State Department’s promotion of other radical, divisive, and destructive cultural policies.”

“Americans deserve to know why the State Department is committed to spreading atheism abroad, and which foreign, anti-religious groups are receiving their tax dollars,” lawmakers wrote. 

House Republicans further requested a phone briefing from Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Lisa Peterson to the RSC to discuss the grant program. But most notably, lawmakers told the State Department to preserve all documents, records, and communications related to the program, in accordance with federal law.

“Specifically, this preservation request should be construed as an instruction to preserve all documents, communications, and other information, including electronic information and metadata, that is or may be potentially responsive to a future congressional inquiry, request, investigation, or subpoena,” they wrote. 

Lawmakers, in their first letter, accused the State Department’s program of being unconstitutional and noted that “atheism is an integral part of the belief system of Marxism and communism.”

“It is one thing for the Department to be tolerant and respectful of a wide range of belief systems, and to encourage governments to respect the religious freedom interests of their citizens,” lawmakers said in the letter. “It is quite another for the United States government to work actively to empower atheists, humanists, non-practicing, and non-affiliated in public decision-making. Any such program – for any religiously-identifiable group – in the United States would be unconstitutional.”

The State Department characterized atheists as a “unique religious group” while encouraging them to build “networks and advocacy groups” for atheists, according to the letter:

This would be analogous to official State Department promotion of religious freedom “particularly for Christians” in China, with the express goal being to build a corresponding missionary network. Obviously, this goal that would never pass constitutional muster and would be derided by radical leftist bureaucrats in your agency as completely out-of-bounds. So why is this atheist NOFO [Notice of Funding Opportunity] not viewed with similar objection?

Americans rightly discern this as a part of the broader effort on the part of your administration to promote radical, progressive orthodoxy abroad. Atheism is an integral part of the belief system of Marxism and communism.

According to the Washington Stand, the Biden administration says the grants are meant to encourage “religious toleration of secularists.” But Republicans are worried the tax-payer funds could be used “to proselytize for atheism or to lobby foreign government[s] on behalf of atheists’ concerns.”

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