Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, this week defiantly responded to two atheist organizations who he said are trying to "intimidate" him and other senior-level government officials for participating in a Bible study.
What's going on?
Two atheist organizations — The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — are suing Carson and his department for failing to waive fees associated with Freedom of Information Act requests.
FFRF and CREW filed FOIA requests to determine if a weekly Bible study conducted by members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet have used government resources for their weekly gathering. The organizations also wanted to know if any staffers had been "coerced into organizing or even participating in the religious event," according to CBN News.
Among those who attend the study are: Carson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdue and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Associated with FOIA requests are standard fees for processing if the information requested is neither in the public's interest nor related to an agency's operations. HUD charged FFRF and CREW a fee for their FOIA requests and refused to waive it.
That led the groups to sue Carson and HUD this week. They are alleging HUD is denying them fee waivers "where disclosure of the requested documents is likely to cast the agency or HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a negative light," according to Newsmax.
How did Carson respond?
First of all, taxpayer funds are not used to support the ministry, and secondly, no staff are involved in the Bible study. More importantly, I refuse to be intimidated by anti-religious groups into relinquishing my spirituality or religious beliefs. 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. We are not like everyone else, which is precisely the reason that we rose so rapidly from obscurity to become the most powerful and free nation in history.
Carson went on to explain that three foundational American principles are under attack, citing patriotism, morality and spirituality.
"We the people must decide who we are and what we stand for," Carson said, adding that if America doesn't, the nation could become unrecognizable.