The State Department has refused to provide information to House Republicans regarding which atheist organizations abroad have been receiving U.S. government grants.
Republican sources familiar with the matter told Fox News Digital that several House lawmakers and staff had spoken with Mariah Mercer, of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, on a conference call regarding the issue.
Mercer reportedly would not provide answers about the grants, citing “security concerns” as the reason behind the department’s refusal to disclose which atheist organizations are being given taxpayer money.
“The sources said that the grants are favoring atheists over non-atheists and that the grants are primarily going to individuals and organizations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia — all heavily Muslim regions,” the report states.
This comes months after House Republicans sent letters to the State Department calling out Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
In the letters, the GOP congressmen asked Blinken about the program, which would award grants of up to $500,000 of U.S. taxpayer money “to organizations committed to the practice and spread of atheism and humanism, namely in South/Central Asia and in the Middle East/North Africa.”
The lawmakers also stated in the letters that they would “like to know what other United States government programs supported with appropriated funds are being used either to encourage, inculcate, or to disparage any official belief system – atheist, humanist, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise.”
Sources told Fox News Digital that the State Department had been “stonewalling” House Republicans about the program for roughly six months — claiming that they were “working on it” when they were asked to compile a list of countries to which they had sent the grant funds.
“They also said the State Department officials cited security concerns when asked about the grants themselves and that the department officials refused to say how they defined success in the program,” the report reads. “The department told the lawmakers and staff that the grants are to protect the religious freedoms of atheists in other countries but, after six months, they still haven’t said who is receiving the money.”
GOP lawmakers and staff have noted that they may be interested in utilizing House oversight power to subpoena the State Department to get the information after Republicans regain the majority in the House in January.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who is chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), organized the conference call with the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
Speaking with Fox News Digital, Banks said that after “6 months and multiple letters the Biden State Department is still hiding basic information about their funding of atheism abroad.”
“They know that the details would outrage American taxpayers and they’re worried they’d also expose the program as unconstitutional,” he added. “Congress gave them this money but apparently we’re not allowed to know which countries are getting the money—it’s insane.”
“In just a few short weeks Republicans will retake the majority and we absolutely should use the compulsory process to force the Biden State Department to release this information,” Banks continued.
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) August 2, 2022