Recently, a lawsuit has been filed by CatholicVote and Judicial Watch against the Justice Department and FBI for allegedly failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about a memo that originated from an FBI field office that labeled Catholics as “violent extremists.“
The memo, which was produced by the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, field office on January 23, 2023, identified ‘radical–traditionalist Catholic[s]’ as potential “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” It has since been withdrawn and removed from FBI systems, yet the FBI and DOJ have still failed to comply with the FOIA requests submitted by the two groups in March.
“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,” stated CatholicVote President Brian Burch in a release.
“We are demanding transparency from our government and are determined to uncover just how high up the anti-Catholic bigotry goes.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray explained as part of a recently given congressional testimony regarding the leaked memo that the agency “took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems.”
“It does not reflect FBI standards,” continued Wray. “We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop. We have also now ordered our inspection division to take a look at how this happened and try to figure out how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Moreover, documents obtained by a subpoena issued by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R–Ohio, confirm that the FBI has attempted to cultivate “sources“ to combat domestic terrorism and use local religious organizations as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.” The FBI also relied on “at least one undercover agent to produce its analysis“ and proposed engaging in outreach to Catholic parishes to develop sources among the clergy and church leadership to inform on Americans practicing their faith.
This news has caused a lot of controversy and concern among the Catholic community. Many have accused the DOJ and FBI of infringing on the rights of Catholics and violating the First Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees the right to freely exercise religion.
The lawsuit seeks to compel the FBI and DOJ to comply with the FOIA request and make all documents related to the memo available to the public. It also seeks to enjoin the agencies from using the memo as a basis for any purpose.
The lawsuit is a crucial step in ensuring that the government respects the rights of religious minorities and does not infringe on their rights by using outdated and offensive language to target them. It is also a reminder that the government must be held accountable when it fails to comply with its own laws.