CV NEWS FEED // Attorney General Merrick Garland is likely to face tough questions from Republicans when he testifies Wednesday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republican senators are expected to ask questions about the “weaponization” of federal law enforcement against American parents, Catholics, and pro-life activists under Garland’s leadership at the Department of Justice.
Prosecution of Pro-Life Activists
The Biden Justice Department charged 26 pro-life Americans under the Freedom of Access to to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in 2022. During the same period, Justice Department did not have a single prosecution of pro-abortion criminal activity under Garland’s leadership – despite over 100 recorded attacks on churches and pro-life organizations.
The Justice Department has acknowledged that the FACE Act prohibits not only criminal activity against abortion facilities, but also obstructions, intrusions, and threats on the properties of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and churches.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has spoken out against Garland regarding his agency’s allegedly selective application of the law. Hawley was one of the most outspoken critics of the DOJ’s decision to send dozens of FBI agents to arrest Mark Houck, a pro-life Catholic father of seven who was eventually exonerated. The senator repeatedly expressed outrage at the fact that the agents, whom Hawley referred to as a “SWAT-style” team, reportedly pointed guns at Houck in front of his small children.
In addition, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a formal letter to Garland, co-addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray, demanding answers about the aggressive tactics used in Houck’s arrest. The letter highlighted the contrast between the DOJ’s actions against pro-life Americans and lack of actions against pro-abortion attacks on Catholic churches and pro-life organizations after the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade.
When Houck was acquitted of the DOJ’s charges, Hawley pressed further: “Remember, this is the Catholic man Biden DOJ arrested in a SWAT-style raid at his home,” he tweeted. “In front of his children. On bogus charges. All to intimidate pro-life Americans & people of faith.”
Surveillance of Catholics
Garland may also face questions regarding the FBI’s recently-leaked memo targeting Catholics. The memo elicited widespread criticism among Catholic leaders, as well as lawmakers in both the House and Senate. As CatholicVote previously reported:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray about a recently-leaked memo from the Bureau’s office in Richmond, Virginia, that linked “radical-traditionalist Catholics” with threats of domestic extremism.
The news came days after CatholicVote President Brian Burch sent a letter to Jordan asking him to further investigate the FBI over the “anti-Catholic” memo.
Chairman Jordan’s letter demanded answers about the FBI’s “targeting of a set of Catholic Americans for their religious beliefs…”
…[The] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) spoke out against the memo when their religious freedom chairman, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, accused the FBI of “religious profiling.”
Education Scandals and the Targeting of Parents
Garland faced intense scrutiny in 2021 when it was revealed that federal law enforcement colluded with public education officials and teachers union representatives to prolong and justify unpopular COVID-19 policies.
In September 2021, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent Garland a letter complaining about parents expressing concerns about controversial public education policies (many of which have since been proven harmful to children). The education officials’ letter suggested that parents could pose a threat of “domestic terrorism” and asked the attorney general to take action against concerned parents under the Patriot Act.
Garland later released a memo echoing the NSBA’s language and directing the DOJ and FBI to monitor parents who attend school board meetings to complain. The memo led to a national outcry from parents, who felt targeted by federal law enforcement.
The NSBA took note of the backlash and apologized for their letter to Garland. “On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for this letter,” the organization stated. “There was no justification for some of the language included in this letter.”
Garland, however, did not back down.
During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2021, Garland repeatedly refused to rescind the memo or apologize for it.
“As a result of your memo, local school officials and parents may not speak up in these meetings, out of fear the federal government will do something to them, so that’s a poisonous chilling effect,” Grassley said to Garland during the hearing.
“It responds to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct, that’s all it’s about,” Garland said.
As CatholicVote reported at the time:
Many critics noted that, while Garland claimed his memo did not address every concern in the NSBA’s letter, it certainly seemed to share its central — and most heatedly contested — assertions about parents posing a “threat” to public school officials at school board meetings.
…Garland’s memo promised that that the Department of Justice took “these incidents” and “threats” seriously, and would work with the “nation’s nearly 14,000 public school districts” to address “the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” deploying the FBI to that end.
The memo did not, however, name any actual “incidents,” “criminal conduct,” or “threats” in particular.
During the same October 2021 hearing, several members of the committee spoke pointedly against Garland’s use of federal law enforcement. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR, decried what he called Garland’s “outrageous directive sicking the Feds on parents at school boards across America.”