The Senate Foreign Relations Committee wants the State Department to explain its use of taxpayer funds to purchase and distribute Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s book What’s Right With Islam.
“Certainly Senate Foreign Relations Committee members will want some briefing from the State Department,” Andy Fisher, the spokesman for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations told HUMAN EVENTS. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had no immediate reaction to the controversy.
On the House side, Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, is “looking into the matter.” Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) would not comment as of press time.
The State Department spent $10,000 of taxpayer funds to buy 2,000 copies of the book written by Ground Zero mosque promoter Feisal Abdul Rauf. U.S. embassy employees are distributing the book during the imam’s taxpayer-funded tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
But the arrangement calls into question whether the U.S. government’s funding of a book which promotes the Muslim religion is in violation of the 1st Amendment’s separation of church and state.
The State Department defends the right to distribute this book by saying the book is not “religious.” An official told HUMAN EVENTS that “we would consider a religious book to be something like the Koran and the Bible. We look at those as book on religion or books about religious.”
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told HUMAN EVENTS that the State Department’s “argument that only the Bible and the Koran are religious books makes no sense.”
“It’s inappropriate for the federal government to purchase and distribute this book,” the liberal Lynn said. “It’s just as bad if the government sent out a book by Glenn Beck on his view of Christianity.”
Lynn takes issue with State Department programs which pay for religious leaders like the imam to travel overseas. “There are dozens or hundreds of religious leaders sent to other countries—priests, ministers, rabbis and imams—and nobody is monitoring.”
The State Department is spending $16,000 as on Rauf’s tour of the Middle East as part of the “speakers program” within the Bureau of International Information Programs.
“There is no oversight by Congress of the taxpayer-paid religious leaders sent on overseas tours by the State Department,” says Lynn.
Asked about the Democrats ability to launch an investigation into the expenditure of funds and manpower on the imam’s book, Lynn seemed to concede that Republicans would take control of Congress in November. “They have a limited amount of time to do anything,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—which litigates against Christian symbols such as the cross and Ten Commandments in public places—refused to comment on the Islamic book controversy.