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House Republicans Tell State Department to Preserve All Documents on Grants Backing Atheism

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Eighteen House Republicans, led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), are warning Secretary of State Antony Blinken to preserve all official documents and communications on a grant program promoting atheism overseas.

Their warning came in an Aug. 2 letter made public on Aug. 3 in which the House Republicans told Blinken that his department hasn’t responded to the group’s June request for information on a competitive grant notice providing up to $500,000 to organizations devoted to “promoting and Defending Religious Freedom Inclusive of Atheist, Humanist, Non-Practicing, and Non-Affiliated Individuals” in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as South and Central Asia.

“Although we asked the State Department to answer a series of questions no later than July 15, 2022, no responses have been provided thus far, suggesting either that the department has chosen to disregard Secretary Blinken’s frequent, express instructions for its employees to work closely with Congress, or that it has something to hide,” the letter stated.

“Since we sent our letter, many of our constituents have reached out with concerns not only about the State Department’s promotion of atheism, but also about its apparent promotion of ‘humanism’—an official belief system—as well as the State Department’s promotion of other radical, divisive, and destructive cultural policies.

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“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.”

A spokesman for the State Department who spoke on background declined to comment on congressional correspondence. When asked if any grant selections have been made under the controversial program, the spokesman said, “In accordance with longstanding practice, and to protect the ability of rights advocacy organizations to accomplish their objectives in highly sensitive international settings, the department does not make public the results of these grant awards.”

The warning to Blinken to ensure that all documents and communications about the grant program be preserved suggests Banks and the other signers anticipate November’s congressional elections to restore Republican control of the House, and that the atheism promotion program will receive significant attention when Republicans launch what is expected to be an aggressive, wide-ranging series of legislative oversight investigations of the executive branch.

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“It is imperative that you remind all employees and officials within the department of their legal responsibility to take appropriate measures to collect, retain, and preserve all documents, communications, and other records in accordance with federal law … We request that you preserve all information that relates to this grant program … including all information connected to oversight requests or demands from Congress, including but not limited to the questions asked in this letter and in our previous letter sent on June 30th, 2022,” the signers wrote.

“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.”

Besides Banks, signers include Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Ben Cline (R-Va.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Bob Good (R-Va.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Barry Moore (R-Ala.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), and Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.).

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In their June letter, the signers described their basic objections to the grant program as it being unconstitutional and of no value in protecting or advancing legitimate U.S. interests around the world.

“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,” the signers wrote.

“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.”

Mark Tapscott

Congressional Correspondent


Congressional Correspondent for The Epoch Times.

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