Aug 30, 2018

President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board is not in compliance with a federal law that ensures oversight of executive advisory bodies, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has charged.

In a letter to government officials, Americans United asserts that the board is in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), a 1972 law Congress enacted to “ensure that advice by the various advisory committees formed over the years is objective and accessible to the public.”

“President Trump has granted leaders of a narrow segment of one religion unprecedented influence on policy decisions that affect all of us,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “Americans have a right to know that – and to have a government that works for everyone, not just some.”

The Evangelical Advisory Board, Americans United notes, has not met FACA’s requirements – yet its members have boasted about the important work they’re doing with the president and their access to him and other administration officials.

The letter was sent to Donald F. McGahn II, counsel to the president; Justin R. Clark, director of the Office of Public Liaison; the Federal Advisory Committee Management Secretariat of the General Services Administration and Johnnie Moore, the spokesperson for the Evangelical Advisory Board.

“We respectfully request that the Advisory Board cease meeting and providing advice to the President unless and until it fully complies with FACA, and that you produce to us certain documents relating to the Advisory Board,” reads the letter.

Americans United also sent Freedom of Information Act requests to get more information about the Advisory Board and to 10 federal agencies in an attempt to determine how much interaction they’ve had with it. The departments are: Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Treasury, Education, Labor, Defense, State, Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget.

AU also seeks to determine the source of the funding for a special dinner for conservative evangelicals that Trump hosted at the White House Aug. 27.

Background: Under FACA, all meetings of a presidential advisory committee must be open to the public, and a timely notice of each meeting must be published in the Federal Register. In addition, interested parties must be permitted to attend meetings, appear before the committee and file statements with it. Detailed minutes of each committee meeting must be kept, and various records related to committee meetings must be made available to the public.

Americans United has compiled a timeline of Trump attacks on church-state separation. It can be seen here.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

(Photo: Evangelicals Jack Graham and Paula White stand with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during a Rose Garden ceremony on the National Day of Prayer in May 2017. Credit: Screenshot from C-SPAN.)