Is Peace Corps Lying? UPDATE 7.30.15

UPDATE:  I requested and did receive a telephone call from the FOIA Officer. She said that the reply I had received  was confusing and she hoped to correct the confusion and send a more comprehensive response to my request for information about the new faith initiative.  Evidently, the program is only in the very early stages of development. I will post the amended response when it is received.  I do appreciate the communication.

Original post:

Last February, Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet spoke at Calvin University.  To read her comments, here is the link: http://www.calvin.edu/chimes/2015/02/12/peace-corps-director-opens-up-on-faith-development-and-changes-in-the-peace-corps/ The article reports Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet saying:

“Peace Corps does not mind at all if people practice their faith; in fact, we welcome it,” she continued. “We do discourage proselytizing because we are a government agency. But I think individual Christians are able to live their faith and are able to participate in local faith communities as members.”

In part as a recognition of this, Hessler-Radelet explained, the Peace Corps recently started a new faith initiative which intends both to connect with faith-based NGOs and networks in the United States, and also to better support communities of faith overseas.

While this initiative is a new step for the Peace Corps, Hessler-Radelet does not see it as a dramatic change.”

To learn more about this new initiative, on March 30, 2015, I made a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA 15-0122), asking”

“For a copy of the documents describing the Faith Initiative that Director Hessler-Radelet announced at Calvin University.”

When I heard nothing after the promised 20 business days, I inquired as to the status of 15-0122 and received this reply on May 28, 2015.

“Thanks for writing to check on the status of FOIA 15-0122.  Here is where it stands.  We have received material which is responsive, and we are waiting for results of further searching.  It will be possible to estimate how much time is necessary after we have all the material in hand. “

Today, I received the final response to FOIA 15-0122:

” A thorough search was conducted and no records responsive to your request were found.”

Were they lying then or are they lying now or is there some other explanation??  Does it matter? Yes, it does.  The new faith initiative could be a brand new program with many implications for Volunteers and for host countries, particularly as it appears to begin with networking in the United States and has a goal supporting communities of faith overseas.

As a RPCV, I have no special rights to Peace Corps information other than that which is public; nor to I seek any special information.  But, as a citizen of the United States, I am entitled to access the Freedom of Information Act and to receive accurate information.  I intend to appeal this decision.

5 Comments

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  • I fear you have too much faith in government operation. My assumption is they have simply lost the file or do not know how to release it. Or possibly it has gotten mixed up with Hillary’s email records and been destroyed.

  • I see no reason PCVs cannot cooperate with other groups, faith based or otherwise, who share the same aspirations, i.e. to better the lot of the people with whom they worked.

  • Leo,
    These are two mutually exclusive statements: “We have received material which is responsive” And. “ no records responsive to your request were found.” This is not okay.

    The Freedom of Information Act is the law, not a suggestion.
    Peace Corps is not exempt from compiling with the law, and
    I expect an adequate explanation and an appropriate reply to
    my request.

    Since its beginning, Peace Corps has worked well with religious organizations. In many countries, most hospitals and
    medical facilities were religious institutions.
    The Director is evidently speaking about a new faith initiative;
    a new program including networking with faith based organizations in the United States It is hard to believe that during the last almost six months since her speech, that there have been no memos, no correspondence, no documents at all describing this newinitiative.

  • Keeping things secret can be blackouts, brownouts, dissembling through lies, denials, withholding information, presenting only a selection of truth, half-truths presented as the whole, false dichotomies, distorting, breaking down truths. bit here, bit there.

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