FFRF rebukes FBI for promotion of religion

FFRF is admonishing the FBI for conducting Christian devotions and otherwise unconstitutionally promoting religion.

An FBI employee has informed FFRF about serious concerns regarding increased religious promotion within the bureau. The FBI reportedly has a chaplain offer a Christian invocation at FBI graduation ceremonies and allows religious figures into the VIP section during FBI Academy events. The complainant has also reported that last summer, an FBI supervisor (Assistant Director Renae McDermott) 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 restocked the chapel with bibles, MP3 sticks and tracts for all.”

Scheduling prayers at FBI events such as Academy graduation ceremonies is unconstitutional and a violation of rights of conscience, FFRF informs the FBI.

“It is a fundamental constitutional principle that publicly funded institutions cannot support, promote or otherwise endorse religion or engage in religious exercises,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to McDermott. “Therefore, it is inappropriate for a public institution such as the FBI Academy to schedule an invocation as part of a secular graduation ceremony.”

Furthermore, FFRF adds, 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.

Prayers at FBI Academy events are especially coercive. Although the prayer may technically have been voluntary, agents would likely interpret a commanding officer’s suggestion to participate in the prayer as a command and would likely be unwilling to publicly dissent because of potential negative consequences on their new career.

FFRF has requested the FBI to abide by the Constitution and has put in a Freedom of Information Act request to ensure that the nation’s law-enforcement agency indeed does that.