The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Senate to intensely scrutinize President Trump's nominee to direct U.S. intelligence agencies.
FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor have written a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Energy and Natural Resources about Dan Coats, Trump's choice to be director of national intelligence. They are requesting Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of the committee, and fellow committee members to ask Coats a number of pointed questions during his confirmation hearing on Feb. 28.
Throughout Coats' career, his religion has played an important role. He helped author Don't Ask, Don't Tell, has opposed gay marriage, and has vowed to "defend the sanctity of life from the moment of conception" — all because of his religious beliefs.
"If there were a conflict between the law and your religion, can you commit to upholding the law?" Barker and Gaylor urge Burr to ask Coats.
And another question for Coats naturally arises from his strong Christian views: "The U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office in Article 6. Would you honor that aspect of the Constitution in all your staffing choices, including the possibility of hiring nonbelievers or LGBTQ people?"
Coats has argued that taxpayer funding, resources, and authority should be transferred to religious institutions. He claims this approach stems from "the experience of seeing how religious charities not only feed the body but touch the soul."
"Do you believe that governments should be funneling resources to religious institutions for religious goals, such as 'touching the soul'?" Coats should be asked.
When Coats was the U.S. ambassador to Germany in 2004, he used that position to stop funds for a speaking engagement for the author and professor Jeff Sharlet (with the U.S. Embassy as a sponsor) at the University of Potsdam. Coats reportedly declared Sharlet "an enemy of Jesus" and cancelled the event because of Sharlet's reporting on Coats' involvement with The Family (also known as The Fellowship), a secretive organization of Christian fundamentalists that wield political influence and also sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast.
"Do you believe it is appropriate to use a government office to mistreat those who do not share your religious beliefs?" Coats should be sharply questioned on his abuse of public authority.
FFRF is appealing to Burr and other members of the Select Committee on Intelligence Energy and Natural Resources to keep these questions in mind during Coats' confirmation hearing, currently scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28. Coats' answers could determine his fitness for becoming the top intelligence official in the United States.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit organization representing more than 27,000 members across the nation, including members in every state. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government, and to educate the public about nontheism.