Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, People For the American Way (PFAW) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency, demanding that the administration turn over documents related to communications concerning a right-wing Bible study involving cabinet officials led by a group that seeks to influence public policy through religious teaching. PFAW filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for these documents months ago but has received no response. The Bible study is led by Capitol Ministries, a group whose leader, Ralph Drollinger, teaches that adherence to Biblical principles requires public officials to advance right-wing social and economic policies.
“The president’s team seems to think that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to them, and they are wrong,” PFAW’s Elliot Mincberg said. “The facts of this case are simple: Cabinet officials have every right to participate in Bible study, and the American people have every right to know who is influencing public officials and how. We made a proper request to find out more details about this religious instruction and influence campaign, and the Trump administration ignored it. That’s a clear violation of FOIA, and we expect the court will agree.”
PFAW’s FOIA requests, which the administration acknowledged receiving in late 2017, sought documents including correspondence, call logs, and meeting records related to Ralph Drollinger, Danielle Drollinger, and other Capitol Ministries personnel. Despite repeated communications from PFAW to learn the status of their requests, more than 9 months later, all three departments have failed to provide the requested documents. Other departments have also failed to turn over such records.
Capitol Ministries is a private religious group dedicated to influencing public policy through religious teaching of government officials. The group leads in-person Bible studies with public officials and publishes a weekly written Bible study that is distributed to public officials.
A link to the complaint in the case, which is being filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, can be found here. PFAW is being represented in the case pro bono by the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, L.L.P and by People For the American Way Foundation.
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.