An aggressively litigious secularist watchdog organization is warning the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cease theistic activities such as prayer by a Christian chaplain at FBI events.
According to a letter sent to the assistant training director of the FBI Academy, Renae McDermott, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) warned the bureau to cease its supposed favoritism toward Christianity and promotion of religion altogether.
The letter, drafted by FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line, claims that “a concerned FBI employee has reported serious concerns regarding increased religious promotion within the Bureau.”
Specifically, [the employee has] reported that the FBI has a chaplain offer a Christian invocation at FBI graduation ceremonies and allows religious figures into the VIP section during FBI Academy events. Our complainant also reported that on June 5, 2020, you forwarded an email from the Academy Chaplain to all employees reminding them “that there is a divine power in charge of all things. You are all very much appreciated and I have been praying for you and your loved ones each week… I have re-stocked the Chapel with Bibles, MP3 Sticks and Tracts for all.” Our complainant is especially concerned because the FBI is an organization filled with public employees who have sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“Furthermore,” the letter goes on, “a call to FBI agents, their families and friends, and officers—who may be of varying faiths or no faith—for collective prayer is coercive, embarrassing, and beyond the scope of a government training academy. Individuals are free to pray or to worship on their own time in their own way. The FBI, however, ought not to lend its power and prestige to religion, amounting to a governmental endorsement of religion that excludes the 24% of Americans who are not religious.”
FFRF went on to demand “written assurances” that future graduation ceremonies at the academy will not include prayer, as well as to suggest that the academy end its chaplaincy program altogether, “perhaps replacing it with a secular alternative, with volunteers who are not given any religious duties, but generally provide support services tied to the criminal justice profession.”
The organization also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the academy, asking for any communications between academy staff and its chaplain, all financial records for the chaplain and chapel, all training materials and “other job-related materials” given to chaplains, any guidance documents or policies relating to chaplains, and a list of current chaplains and their denominational affiliations.
This is merely the latest in a decades-long string of indimidation, threats, and lawsuits by FFRF to quell all expression of faith in the public square that it deems “unconstitutional.”
As we’ve previously reported, the organization has threatened a school with legal action over a third-grade class’ live nativity scene, pushed another school to stop participating in Operation Christmas Child toy drives, and attempted to pressure several schools to cease praying ahead of football games—to name just a few.
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