Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Chris Smith of New Jersey, chair of the Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations; and Brian Mast of Florida, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability, sent a letter to the state department to express their concerns.
The letter said Acting Assistant Secretary Erin Barclay of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Ambassador-at-Large Rashad Hussain of the Office of International Religious Freedom were not providing sufficient answers to previous queries about the State Department’s apparent funding of humanist events in other nations. They specifically referenced a 2021 Notice of Funding Opportunity program titled “Promoting and Defending Religious Freedom Inclusive of Atheist, Humanist, Non-Practicing and Non-Affiliated Individuals.”
One program outcome listed in the notice includes increasing the “capacity among members of atheist and heterodox individuals to form or join networks or organizations, implement advocacy campaigns and to engage with the public on issues of tolerance and acceptance of all regardless of faith.” The letter said violates the bureau and OIRF’s explicit rule not to “provide funds to any organization with the aim of using such funds to promote or advance specific religious ideologies or beliefs.”
The congressmen explained that Humanists International, an organization that eventually received the grant, actively tries to spread atheist beliefs abroad and works alongside groups that actively promote humanism in the United States.
“The awarding of the DRL NOFO to HI reveals major flaws in the department’s screening process for potential constitutional violations,” the letter said. “The department’s efforts to combat religious persecution abroad do not entitle the department to promote particular religions using taxpayer funds.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice