An atheist activist group is suing the federal government over the allegation that Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is “dodging records requests relating to a White House bible study.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation teamed up with government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to push back against what the groups say is a systematic practice of denying fee wavers for Freedom of Information Act requests.
These fees are generally waived for 501(c)(3) organizations such as the FFRF, but were reportedly not waived when the organizations reached out for documentation and clarity surrounding Bible studies that have unfolded among Trump cabinet members.
Breaking News! @FFRF and @CREWcrew are suing Secretary Ben Carson's Department of Housing and Urban Development for dodging records requests relating to a White House bible study. https://t.co/1Wab4K6Vhs pic.twitter.com/PDUmB7mJqB
— FFRF (@FFRF) January 18, 2018
FFRF and CREW are exploring documents that relate to these highly publicized Bible studies that are organized and attended by secretaries and major figures inside the Trump administration. A FFRF press release has more:
According to reports, the Trump administration holds weekly bible study sessions at the White House. FFRF is seeking the records to determine whether or not the bible study uses government resources, whether staffers may feel coerced into organizing or even participating in the religious event, and to ascertain government access granted to Capitol Ministries, a group that seeks to evangelize elected officials.
The pious affair is apparently co-sponsored by Vice President Mike Pence. The list of bible study attendees includes officials whose appointments FFRF objected to because of their inability to keep their personal religion separate from their public office: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and, of course, Secretary Ben Carson, the surgeon whom President Trump tapped to run Housing and Urban Development. (Trump himself rarely makes an appearance.)
The lawsuit was filed amid claims that relevant departments have lagged in delivering requested documentation, with Carson and his HUD department allegedly putting up the biggest fight.
Both organizations were also denied fee waivers for a request in October to see Carson’s schedule, among other documents. FFRF and CREW are hoping the lawsuit grants them these fee waivers, so that they can review the aforementioned documents and information.
The Bible study, in particular, has been an area of interest for the FFRF due to the fact that Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries, the man who leads it, has reportedly made controversial past statements about about Catholicism as well as women legislators.
He reportedly called Catholicism “one of the primary false religions of the world” and wrote the following about female politicos:
“It is one thing for a mother to work out of her home while her children are in school. It is quite another matter to have children in the home and live away in Sacramento for four days a week. Whereas the former could be in keeping with the spirit of Proverbs 31, the latter is sinful.”
As Faithwire reported earlier this year, the weekly Bible study in question has been “making history.” Drollinger told CBN News in an interview last year that participants — some of the most powerful people in government — are “godly individuals that God has risen to a position of prominence in our culture.”
The Bible study is a rarity in government, and, according to Drollinger, a similar study among cabinet members potentially hasn’t happened in over a century.
The participating secretaries include: CIA Director Mike Pompeo, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, EPA head Rick Perry, Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“[Jeff Sessions will] go out the same day I teach him something and I’ll see him do it on camera and I just think, ‘Wow, these guys are faithful, available and teachable and they’re at Bible study every week they’re in town,’” Drollinger said.
It will be fascinating to see how this lawsuit shakes out.