–Posted: 12:12 pm EDT
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American embassies hold Fourth of July festivities every year. This blog has followed those official celebrations through the last several years. There is brewing controversy over the news that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta had moved its Fourth of July celebration to June 4th this year to “avoid any conflict with the month-long Ramadan celebration.” Makes perfect sense to us. Before you get all mad, read on.
The Celebration of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta’s 239th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America with Ambassador Blake and guests
Photo credit: State Dept./Erik A. Kurniawan
This is certainly not the first time that an embassy had moved its Fourth of July celebration to a different date. In 2012, the US Embassy in Oman celebrated our 236th year of independence in February that year. We were once told that heat is the reason for these early 4th of July celebrations at various overseas posts. At one EUR post, we heard that it was the heat and the fact that most government officials leave the capital city in July. In 2013 and again in 2014, the US Embassy in Nepal celebrated July 4th three months earlier, in March “in the hopes of escaping monsoon weather.”
So yes, our diplomatic posts overseas have moved these independence day celebrations due to heat, monsoon weather, and now, Ramadan. And this is probably not the first time an embassy has done this, and it will not be the last.
Ramadan this year begins the evening of June 17 and ends the evening of July 17. During this time, many Muslims will observe a pre-fast meal before dawn. At sunset, they will have their fast-breaking meal. On July 4th, in Muslim host countries like Indonesia, the red, white and blue cake will not be first on their minds when they break their fast for their first meal of the day since dawn.
Here’s where we pause for a reminder that these Fourth of July celebrations are official functions typically hosted by our embassies for host country nationals and contacts. There is every need to accommodate local sensitivities and realities.
Or there will be no one in attendance.
But what about American citizens, you say; can’t they just party among themselves? They can for private celebrations, of course. But the diplomatic Fourth of July celebration has an official function and purpose, which is (like all representational functions), to provide for the proper representation of the United States, and further foreign policy objectives.
The Department of State Standardized Regulations also dictates that embassy representational allowance may not be used for “expenses of recreation and entertainment solely for employees of the Executive Branch of the United States Government and their families” (5 U.S.C. 5536). That’s right. Uncle Sam will throw a thunderbolt at an embassy that hosts representational events/functions for its American employees or American citizens alone. Regulations require that “U.S. presence, official and private, must be less than half the total guest list.”
In fact, 3 FAM 3246.3 spells this quite clearly: “Since representation relationships are established and maintained primarily with host-country officials and private citizens, guest lists for representation events must reflect minimum guest-ratio guidelines set by the chief of mission for each type of representation function (rarely more than 50 percent U. S. Government executive branch employees) to ensure that representative cross sections are invited.”