A defiant Ben Carson hit back this week at atheist activists who are suing the Department of Housing and Urban Development over the allegation that Carson is “dodging records requests relating to a White House bible study.”
Carson, who serves as the current secretary of HUD, defended himself in a Facebook post, offering a blistering response to the lawsuit filed by The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, and government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
But he wasn’t alone. Others also came to his defense, including a woman named Katie Davis, who identified herself as an atheist, but explained that she fully supports Carson’s right to religious expression.
“I’m an atheist but I supported Carson for president and I support the current administration. Because before anything else, I’m an American,” she wrote. “Not all atheists are like the freedom from religion people. Some of us actually truly believe in freedom OF religion (not freedom FROM religion) and value the right of others to believe what they want. We don’t all want to suppress other people and their beliefs.”
Davis’ response attracted quite a bit of attention and sparked a plethora of discussion. As for Carson, he offered a pointed reaction to FFRF and CREW as well, offering up his side of the story.
“[These organizations are] apparently filing a lawsuit against HUD and me, alleging that they are being treated unfairly because they are required to pay a standard fee when requesting information through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) regarding my participation in the weekly Bible study for cabinet members,” Carson wrote in his response. “They are fearful that a hot beverage or a bagel may be consumed at the expense of taxpayers or that staff may be coerced to participate in religious activities against their will.”
He went on to say that taxpayer funds aren’t used to support the Bible study, nor are any staff involved. And Carson also made it clear that he wouldn’t be bowing to any demands coming from “anti-religious groups.”
“I refuse to be intimidated by anti-religious groups into relinquishing my spirituality or religious beliefs,” he said. “One of the principles of our nation’s founding is freedom of religion. I will not stop being a Christian while in service to this country, in fact, it is my faith that helps me serve the nation even better. The relentless attacks on the spirituality of our nation must be resisted.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are…
From there, Carson delivered a lesson about a theory that he said Joseph Stalin once had about how to destroy the U.S. from within: by eroding spirituality, morality and patriotism — values that Carson said are “currently under severe attack.” It should be noted that a quote attributed to Stalin on this front was rated as “false” by Snopes.
“We the people must decide who we are and what we stand for,” Carson added. “If we don’t, the ending of the Cold War might change dramatically.”
As Faithwire previously reported, FFRF and CREW teamed up 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.
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. Read more about it here.