“In other words,” the attorneys general wrote, “the memorandum proposes recruiting Catholics to enter a sacred house of worship, talk to their fellow Catholics, and report those conversations back to the FBI so that the federal government can keep tabs on the bad Catholics.”
The coalition also criticized the FBI for citing the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups within the memo “apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI.” A footnote in the memo states that traditionalist Catholics are distinct from radical-traditionalist Catholics, but listed nine alleged radical-traditionalist Catholic groups, based solely on the SPLC’s list of “[radical-traditionalist Catholic] hate groups operating in the United States in 2021.” The SPLC has frequently faced accusations of bias from Christian and conservative organizations.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, the primary author of the letter, issued a statement Feb. 10 in which he said he would defend the religious freedom of Catholics in the commonwealth.
“Virginia is the birthplace of religious freedom and has a long history of protecting the inalienable right to live your faith free from government interference or intimidation,” Miyares wrote.
“The leaked memo from our state capital’s FBI office is unacceptable, unconstitutional, and un-American. Frankly, it’s what I would expect from communist Cuba. As attorney general, I’m responsible for defending Virginians’ rights, and religious freedom is the bedrock of the Constitutions of the United States and of Virginia. Virginians should not and will not be labeled ‘violent extremists’ by their government because of how they worship or because of their beliefs.”
The letter referred to “a dangerous tendency in the FBI and DOJ to label those who hold views contrary to the administration as violent extremists or terrorists.”
It specifically cited Attorney General Garland’s October 2021 order for the FBI to address threats to school boards posed by parents and guardians whose protests “run counter to our nation’s core values.” The letter states that this is “an alarming trend that must be immediately curtailed.”
Last week, the Republican-created House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held its first hearing to investigate alleged bias within federal agencies. The state attorneys general also sent this letter to the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Tyler Arnold is a staff reporter for the National Catholic Register. He previously worked at The Center Square and has been published in a variety of outlets, including The Associated Press, National Review, The American Conservative and The Federalist.