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State Department under fire for program promoting atheism

House Republican lawmakers on Wednesday accused the State Department of partaking in a “pattern of obfuscation and denial” because it used taxpayer cash to advertise atheism abroad. 

At difficulty is a $500,000 grant solicited by the division’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in April of 2021 that was ultimately awarded to Humanists International (HI), a corporation the promotes humanism – an outlook which holds no perception in god, the supernatural, an afterlife or a better supply of ethical values.

The State Department maintained for years that the grant cash was getting used to assist spiritual freedom applications and to encourage tolerance towards spiritual minority populations abroad, denying that any efforts have been being made to recruit individuals for the humanist trigger.  

The authorities company didn’t acknowledge any potential misuse of taxpayer funds till final month, after it despatched congressional investigators a PowerPoint slide deck purportedly being utilized by HI in programming in Nepal that the State Department later admitted “were not the actual slides provided at the trainings.”

Michael McCaul
Rep. Michael McCaul was among the many congressmen Wednesday who accused the State Department of obfuscating. Aaron Schwartz / CNP / SplashNews.com

“We write to address what the Department has now acknowledged were its misrepresentations made to Congress about the scope and nature of programming that – for the first time in US diplomatic history – has sought to promote atheism overseas under the guise of ‘religious freedom,’” Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) wrote in a letter despatched to State Department Deputy Secretary Richard Verma on Wednesday. 

The lawmakers argued that the State Department misled Congress because it sought to “expand atheist networks abroad in violation of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.”

“Indeed, following 15 months of our calling attention to this issue, it was not until April 29, 2024 that the Department finally expressed ‘deep concern’ with the programing, and stated that it will ‘pursue appropriate accountability measures,’” McCaul, Smith and Mast mentioned. 

“It is hard to believe Department officials refused to read the words right in front of them, but we are not sure what else may have happened,” they added, noting that the State Department accredited textual content for the program known as for members to “conduct advocacy and membership activities promoting humanism” and to “increase and diversify their membership network.” 

The letter highlighted Verma’s congressional testimony from March, throughout which he asserted, “I have looked at the materials. [Promoting atheism] is not what the grant is for and that is not what the work would be for.”

“We would never authorize such a grant,” the Biden administration official added. “I have seen no evidence of any grant to promote atheism in Nepal.” 

Richard Verma
Verma advised lawmakers in March that the grant cash was not getting used to advertise atheism. Hindustan Times through Getty Images
Supreme Court
The lawmakers charged that the grant violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. Getty Images

Congressional investigators found constitutional violations after they obtained slides used at HI shows in Nepal that differed from those beforehand supplied to Congress by the State Department. 

“The contents of the slides provided at the trainings, presently in the Committee’s possession, are damning,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“To be sure, despite all of the evasions by the Department, it is now plain that the grant promoted atheism and expanded atheist networks abroad, while neglecting Christian and Muslim minorities who, unlike atheists and humanists, face real persecution in the relevant parts of South Asia.”

“Indeed, the programming was designed to recruit new members of the grantee organization in violation of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution,” they mentioned.  

The trio of House Republicans concluded their missive by indicating that they’re “skeptical” of the State Department’s insistence that it will “take immediate action” and “recoup misused funds,” however demanded that Verma hold Congress abreast on the company’s corrective motion going ahead. 

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