State Department’s exclusion of nonreligious press unconstitutional, FFRF contends

State Department

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, is calling attention to the troubling unconstitutional exclusion of nonreligious media from a State Department call today.

A member of the State Department press corps reported Monday that the State Department had limited a “special informational call” to “faith-based media,” excluding all members of secular media outlets. FFRF has promptly pointed out that such a prohibition violates both the Establishment Clause and the Freedom of the Press guarantee of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

“Holding an informational media call that is open only to members of the media with your preferred religious viewpoint is anathema to your constitutional obligation to treat all Americans equally regardless of their religious affiliation,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne. “In addition, media that are not ‘faith-based’ have a right to be included in media calls or events that are open to their religious counterparts.”

FFRF has requested written assurances from the State Department that future media calls and events will not exclude nonreligious media or otherwise favor religion over nonreligion. FFRF has also filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request to obtain public records related to the event.

“The State Department’s favoritism towards ‘religiously-based’ media should be appalling to all Americans regardless of their religious beliefs,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor comments. “Not only does it trample the core founding value of American democracy that is the freedom of the press, but it sends the message to the fast-growing number of nonreligious Americans that they are of secondary concern to their own government.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members and several chapters across the country, including members in every state. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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