OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A group of Republicans, led by Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, are demanding answers for a program by the administration of President Joe Biden that, they say, intends to “promote atheism worldwide.”
Banks, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, penned the letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor’s (DRL) grant program promoting atheism and “humanism,” Fox News reported.
“We are writing to express our grave concern that the State Department is using appropriated funds to support atheism and radical, progressive orthodoxy across the world,” the group said.
“In April 2021, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announced a grant program to promote atheism worldwide. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) was officially titled ‘DRL FY20 IRF Promoting and Defending Religious Freedom Inclusive of Atheist, Humanist, Non-Practicing and Non-Affiliated Individuals.’ It announced a ‘competitive’ c process that would award grants of up to $500,000 to organizations committed to the practice and spread of atheism and humanism, namely in South/Central Asia and in the Middle East/North Africa.
“To be clear, atheism and ‘humanism’ are official belief systems.2 As an initial matter, therefore, we would like to know what other United States government programs supported with appropriated funds are being used either to encourage, inculcate, or to disparage any official belief system – atheist, humanist, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise. 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. 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. 3 Any such program – for any religiously-identifiable group – in the United States would be unconstitutional. In addition to its constitutionally dubious legal foundation, we also question how such a grant or cooperative agreement program advances the foreign policy interests of the United States. Were such programs known by the citizens of the target countries, we would expect that local populations, interest groups, and governments would bristle at what any ‘objective observer’ would see as ‘covert’ funding from a foreign power designed to shatter local religious and cultural relationships,” it said.
“This is not ‘religious freedom.’ This NOFO, like others we have reviewed, prioritizes atheists and humanists above all other potential recipients. Not only does such a priority violate both the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, but also the No Religious Test Clause of Article VI of our nation’s constitution. In the NOFO, the State Department characterizes atheists as a unique religious group while then encouraging the building of “networks and advocacy groups” for atheists. 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 muster4 and would be derided by radical leftist bureaucrats in your agency as completely out-of-bounds. So why is this atheist NOFO 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. A few weeks ago, the United States Embassy in Germany erected a “Black Lives Matter” flag.
“Americans should be very alarmed at this. It’s not only that ‘Black Lives Matter’ remains a highly divisive and increasingly unpopular movement here in the United States; 6 the display is also denoting a promotion of a specific radical organization.7 Other recent initiatives of the State Department include creating a ‘Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice,’ whose mission will be to spread Critical Race Theory and other progressive dogmas worldwide, and working to remove restrictions on abortion around the globe,” they said.