(FamilyConservationPAC.com) – A Catholic lobbying organization has filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and FBI for allegedly refusing to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on a memo from an FBI field office that described Catholics as “violent extremists.”
In a complaint filed on Thursday, CatholicVote and Judicial Watch claim that the groups have used every available means to resolve their FOIA requests with the authorities and that, after initially talking with the nonprofits, the DOJ and FBI have stopped doing so as of April 6.
AG Garland suddenly loses ability to speak English after GOP Senators GRILL him for weaponizing DOJ against Catholics pic.twitter.com/i4Bgp0CW2B
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) April 13, 2023
The lawsuit was brought after a leaked internal memo from the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, field office on January 23, 2023. The document listed “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” as potential “violent extremists with racial or ethnic motivations.”
The groups allegedly asked for text and email exchanges between DOJ and FBI representatives that contained terms like “Catholics,” “Latin Mass,” “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics,” “Pope Francis,” and “Rosary,” among others.
On March 8, the first FOIA inquiries were sent. The FBI allegedly informed the groups on March 14 that “unusual circumstances” precluded the agency from meeting the FOIA request’s 20-day deadline for a response.
According to the groups, more than a month has passed. The FBI and DOJ have yet to produce the requested records or even communicate whether they plan to comply with the request, despite FOIA norms requiring agencies to respond within 20 business days with an additional 10 for “unusual circumstances.”
“Our weaponized and corrupt government agencies have demonstrated a pattern of contempt for justice and the rule of law by prioritizing partisan ideology and agendas over the protection of the American people — in particular those with whom they disagree politically,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch in a statement.
“We want our government to be transparent, and we’re out to find out how far anti-Catholic prejudice extends.”
In recent congressional testimony over the leaked memo, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that the organization “took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems.”
“It does not reflect FBI standards,” Wray continued.
“We do not, under any circumstances, conduct inquiries based on a person’s religious beliefs or practices.
Additionally, we have immediately asked our inspection division to investigate what occurred and try to determine how to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland stated in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that he found the memo “appalling.”
However, a subpoena filed by Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, last month revealed that the FBI had sought out “sources” to fight domestic terrorism and had used neighborhood religious institutions as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.”
Rep. @Jim_Jordan: Biden's DOJ was "trying to develop sources within the Catholic Church, develop informants within Catholic parishes"
"They were really targeting…pro-life Catholics, pro-life traditional Catholics, that's who they're defining as 'radical'" pic.twitter.com/llyyCaRQUB
— GOP (@GOP) April 12, 2023
The FBI suggested that its agents engage in outreach to Catholic parishes to develop sources among the clergy and church leadership to inform on Americans practicing their faith, according to subpoenaed documents, which also showed that the FBI relied on “at least one undercover agent to produce its analysis,” according to Jordan.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., then wrote to Garland accusing him of lying to the Senate when he claimed that his department does not develop sources inside Catholic churches and other places of worship.
Hawley also demanded to know how many “undercover informants or other agents” were assisting the department from these places of worship.
Boom ? Sen Hawley calls out Biden regime’s FBI & DOJ Gestapo being used to target, harass & imprison anyone deemed an enemy of the regime i.e: Christians, Catholics, prolifers, conservatives or anyone against the genital mutilation of children. EVIL pic.twitter.com/iaUFNUlkh7
— Melissa Tate (@TheRightMelissa) March 2, 2023
In a letter to Garland dated April 11, Hawley stated,
“Let’s be clear: your Department has decided to use Catholic congregations as front organizations for the FBI, and when asked about it, you’ve decided to fudge the truth before Congress.”
“This is an unconscionable attack on the First Amendment rights of American Catholics and an abdication of your duty to enforce the law without fear or favor.”
Fox News Digital was informed by Burch of CatholicVote that his worries about the memo go beyond the Catholic Church.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Burch stated, “This is yet another precedence.”
“Where unless citizens push back against our government, we’re allowing this escalation of government power to cross sacrosanct boundaries, including the privacy of a church, where millions of Americans go every Sunday to worship and seek fellowship with fellow believers,” Burch added.
“And it’s not just Catholics who should be worried about the possibility of our own federal government eavesdropping on them or sending undercover agents into these houses of worship,” he continued.
Neither organization responded when Fox News Digital asked the FBI and DOJ for comments on the complaint.
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