The Justice Department has attracted widespread criticism in the wake of revelations that the FBI conducted investigations, which included the use of at least one undercover agent, of Catholic churches and congregants.
When an internal memorandum became public earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) hammered Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said he shared the GOP lawmaker’s concerns.
Garland claimed that the “appalling” behavior outlined in the memo is antithetical to the FBI’s mission, insisting that the bureau “does not do investigations based on religion.”
When Hawley asked how many informants the Justice Department had inside of Catholic churches, however, the attorney general could not provide a definitive answer.
“I don’t know, and I don’t believe we have any informants aimed at Catholic churches,” he said. “We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity and Catholic churches are obviously First Amendment, but I don’t know the specific answer.”
Sebastian Gorka: “The FBI is Labelling Catholics terrorists and has covert agents inside churches” pic.twitter.com/lt7eGwvifB
— Sarah 🇺🇸 (@LoveOurTrump) April 17, 2023
Some leftists do not seem to find anything wrong with targeting Catholic Americans as potential domestic extremists — including Hawley’s colleague Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).
He paid lip service to the importance of “communication” between the FBI and churches, suggesting that agents should contact church leaders if they have concerns about potential extremism.
Nevertheless, Kaine defended the Justice Department’s surveillance of Catholics by comparing the situation to prior efforts to root out suspected Islamic terrorists.
“We’ve done the same thing for years working in tandem with mosques because there have been groups that have tried to target or radicalize, especially young people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill want more answers regarding the scope and nature of the FBI’s investigation into Catholic churches and parishioners.
It is deeply disturbing that Joe Biden’s FBI was spying on Catholic parishes.
This is just the latest example of how corrupted the FBI has become.
House Republicans are committed to rooting out this corruption. https://t.co/Pi42P0XmeQ
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) April 11, 2023
Earlier this month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray in response to the revelation that “at least one undercover agent” was employed to spy on American citizens based on their faith.
“This shocking information reinforces our need for all responsive documents, and the Committee is issuing a subpoena to you to compel your full cooperation,” he wrote.
The bureau has been generally tight-lipped about the issue, but a spokesperson did issue a broad statement, explaining: “While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product — disseminated only within the FBI — regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI.”