State affair: infiltration of churches by the FBI and complaint against the US Department of Justice

State affair: infiltration of churches by the FBI and complaint against the US Department of Justice

A Catholic advocacy group and a legal organization monitoring government activities filed a lawsuit in late April against the US Department of Justice after the FBI put Catholics on a watch list. This complaint comes as the Biden government is accused of undermining the religious freedom of Christians.

On February 8, a suspended FBI agent revealed that the FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia put Catholics on a watch list. The agency had launched the previous January 23 an investigation into “radical traditionalist Catholics” whom it presented as an extremist threat.

According to the agency, Catholic proponents of the Latin Mass and proponents of conservative theology pose an extremist threat due to alleged ties to white supremacist movements. The FBI memo calls them “radical-traditionalist Catholics” to distinguish them from “traditionalist Catholics” who “prefer the traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings and traditions, but without the more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.”

To prepare its memorandum, the Richmond office had notably taken up a file from an extreme left association, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which was even criticized by the Washington Post in 2018, in particular because that it equates conservatives and neo-Nazis. The document was criticized by 20 attorneys general, and the FBI officially withdrew the document saying it did not fit its working methods.

Complaint for refusal of the FBI to communicate the disputed documents

The association CatholicVote and the legal organization Judicial Watch sent requests on March 8 to the FBI for access to documents relating to various Catholic movements and associations. The Freedom of Information Act of 1966 obliges federal agencies to allow requesters to consult the documents which relate to them. On March 14, the FBI informed the petitioners that it could not respond to them within the legal deadline of 20 days due to “unusual circumstances”. However, the agency's letter avoided specifying which of the applicants' four requests was concerned.

After a request for clarification from CatholicVote and Judicial Watch dated April 4, the FBI replied on the 6th that three of the requests had been combined, without specifying which ones or the status of the fourth. The organizations requested details the same day, to which the agency never responded. She also did not say whether she intended to comply with the law.

After waiting in vain for more than a month and a half, the plaintiffs have filed suit against the federal agency and the Department of Justice on which it reports. In their brief, they state that they have exhausted all options to obtain the requested information and that since April 6 the ministry and the oversight agency have been ignoring their requests.

CatholicVote President Brian Burch denounced an unnamed witch hunt:

“Our armed and corrupt government agencies have displayed a pattern of disregard for justice and the rule of law by prioritizing partisanship in its ideology and programs over protecting Americans — especially those with whom they are in political disagreement. We demand transparency from our government and are determined to find out how far anti-Catholic fanaticism goes. »

The Minister of Justice in the hot seat in Congress

After the letter from 20 state attorneys general to Federal Justice Minister Merrick asking the government to publish all the documents used in the preparation of its memo. The House Judiciary Committee summoned FBI Director Christopher Wray and its chairman, Republican Jim Jordan said the FBI had infiltrated at least one agent among traditionalist Catholics for information. Jordan added that the agency offered to recruit informants from the clergy.

During his hearing, Wray said the FBI immediately removed the memorandum from FBI systems and added that the agency does not normally operate like this:

“This does not reflect FBI standards. We don't conduct surveys based on religious affiliation or practices, period. »

Summoned before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Minister of Justice claimed that his services did not recruit sources in the Churches. Republican Senator Josh Hawley sent a letter to the minister on April 11 accusing him of lying to the public and demanding to know how many undercover informants or other agents there were in religious communities.

Hawley recalled in his letter that the minister had claimed to have no anti-Catholic bias, that there was no religious oversight, and that the FBI had no informants in churches across the country. The senator pointed out that the investigation by the House Judiciary Committee had shown that "all of this was false".

"It shows that the department is clearly 'cultivating sources and spies' in Catholic parishes, despite what you claimed before the Senate Judiciary Committee," Hawley said.

Biden administration accused of anti-Christian bias

A guest on The Sean Hannity Show, Hawley said there is, under the Biden administration, “a two-speed judicial system” and took as an example a federal intervention in a Catholic family opposed to abortion.

Senator Hawley was referring to the intervention of 25 FBI agents at Marc Houck, last September. The latter had jostled and knocked down a volunteer in his seventies from an abortion clinic who was shouting at his son. The federal government had thus transformed a local case into a federal one. The Senate Judiciary Committee had summoned the Minister of Justice and demanded an explanation of this intervention.

The spectacle of the intervention contrasts with the benevolence of the Department of Justice which recommended, last April, that a pro-abortion activist transgender who had written “ Catholics” on the walls of a church not be sentenced to prison. Defendant damaged statues, threw rocks at building and assaulted parish worker with spray paint to protest June 2022 Supreme Court ruling that abortion is not a federal right .

Recently, the Biden administration wanted close a Catholic public hospital in Oklahoma because he refused to put out a candle flame in his chapel. The government ended up backing down in the face of the ridiculousness of the situation.

Jean Sarpedon

Image credit: Shutterstock / Dzelat

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