WASHINGTON – The weekly Bible study attended by members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet is once again under attack, this time from an atheist group.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is suing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), led by Secretary Ben Carson.
The group has issued Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to agencies led by Cabinet secretaries who attend the Bible study to see if government resources are being used or if agency staffers feel "coerced into organizing or even participating in the religious event," according to a press release.
No staff members attend the Bible studies, it's for cabinet secretaries only.
FFRF and CREW sued HUD when it failed to waive fees for its FOIA requests.
In July, CBN News broke the news that a number of Cabinet secretaries are meeting weekly to study the Bible and pray together.
President Trump asked Ben Carson to lead his Cabinet in a public prayer in December of 2017.
Since then, the leader of the Bible study, Capitol Ministries founder Ralph Drollinger, has faced a firestorm of personal attacks – despite the fact he's been leading Bible studies for members of the U.S. House and Senate for years.
FFRF claims it's trying to get to the bottom of the "secretive" Bible study, along with any correspondence between Cabinet secretaries and Drollinger.
Drollinger responded on Facebook, saying, "Rather than sue, the FFRF can simply go to www.capmin.org and check out copies of the Bible studies I write and teach the Cabinet, Senate and House members every week. There's nothing secret to this – and all related Bible study expenses are paid by Capitol Ministries, a 501(c)3 organization."
Cabinet secretaries who attend the Capitol Ministries Bible Study include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
These officials have long been on FFRF's radar. The group objected to their confirmations due to their "inability to keep their personal religion separate from their public office."
An attorney for FFRF tells CBN News that HUD did provide responses to its FOIA requests, but denied requests to waive their FOIA fees. The agency determined the records were not in the public interest or related to HUD operations or activities.
HUD FOIA fee waivers "are limited to situations in which a requester can show that disclosure of the requested information is in the public interests because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government," according to the agency website.
FFRF and CREW have also filed FOIA requests seeking information about the amount of time Secretary Carson's wife and son spend with him while he's working.
Capitol Ministries has founded Bible studies in a majority of state capitols across the country, the U.S. House and Senate and the Cabinet. It's also started Bible studies in a number of international capitols and is beginning a project to launch studies among local leaders in communities across the country.