Republicans in the U.S. Congress are calling out President Joe Biden over the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) program that promotes atheism globally.
In a letter addressed to the President and Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, 15 House Republicans expressed "grave concern" over their allegations. According to the letter, Biden's administration uses tax dollars to "support atheism and radical, progressive orthodoxy across the world."
In 2021, a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) was released by the DRL announcing grants of up to $500,000 to any organization that is "committed to the practice and spread of atheism and humanism, namely in South/Central Asia and in the Middle East/North Africa."
The grant would be awarded to up to two organizations that will "ensure everyone enjoys religious freedom, including the freedom to dissent from religious belief and to not practice or adhere to a religion."
The House Republicans, instead, accused the Biden administration of empowering "atheists, humanists, non-practicing, and non-affiliated in public decision-making." They also called the DRL's program "constitutionally dubious," questioning how the program could support the U.S.'s foreign policy interest.
They called atheism "an integral part of the belief system of Marxism and communism."
However, all these allegations from the Republicans are grounded on bias against atheists and humanists. The funding is explicitly aimed at supporting religious freedom worldwide; this freedom includes the freedom "to dissent from religious belief and to not practice or adhere to a religion."
CAIR’s (Council on American-Islamic Relations) National Deputy Director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, has also expressed distress in a recent statement. “We are also concerned that a US funding program meant to single out atheistic activists and organizations in Muslim-majority regions for support will contribute to the suspicion held by some people overseas that our government seeks to secularize the Muslim world by supporting foreign organizations and governments hostile to Islam,” he said.
According to the Humanist International's 2021 annual Freedom of Thought Report, atheists and other non-religious individuals still face grave violations and severe discrimination in most countries.
Andrew Copson, president of the Humanist International, called the 2021 report a "grim reading."
But the Republican representatives were not in agreement. This is not religious freedom, their letter declared.
They also labeled atheism and humanism as official belief systems. Supporting one belief system "for any religiously-identifiable group—in the United States would be unconstitutional."
In a tweet, Nick Fish, president of the American Atheist, called the letter "mind-numbingly absurd." State's IRF office and USCIRF work to protect the freedom of religion or belief — including the right of atheists to practice no religion and apostates to leave religion," Fish continued.
This is mind-numbingly absurd. State's IRF office and USCIRF work to protect the freedom of religion or belief — including the right of atheists to practice no religion and apostates to leave religion. This is an incredibly smart use of State's resources. https://t.co/naJl8l2Vsy
— Nick Fish (@nicholasrfish) June 30, 2022
"This is an incredibly smart use of State's resources," he added.
It is worth mentioning that the funding opportunity’s application process expired between April - June, 2021, depending on the country. There was a related program called “Strengthening Religious Freedom in Sudan through the Rule of Law” in which the application process expired in February, 2022.