FBI's War on Religion: Catholic Group Sues Government Agency Over Surveillance

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

A Catholic lobbying group called CatholicVote, together with Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the FBI for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request was related to an internal memo that originated from an FBI field office, which labeled Catholics as “violent extremists.”


The memo, leaked on January 23, singled out “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” as potential “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” The groups requested text and email communications between DOJ and FBI officials that included terms such as “Catholics,” “Latin Mass,” “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics,” “Pope Francis,” and “Rosary,” among others.

FOIA norms require federal agencies to respond to requests within 20 business days, or an additional 10 for “unusual circumstances.” But more than a month has passed, and the FBI and DOJ have failed to provide the records or even communicate whether they plan to comply with the request, according to Fox News.

FBI Director Christopher Wray stated in recent congressional testimony that the agency “took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems.” Attorney General Merrick Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the content of the memo was “appalling.” However, a subpoena issued by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan noted that the Bureau tried to cultivate “sources” to combat domestic terrorism and use local religious organizations as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.”


CatholicVote President Brian Burch released a written statement taking the Justice Department and FBI to task for its plans to target Americans based on their religion:

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.

“We are demanding transparency from our government and are determined to uncover just how high up the anti-Catholic bigotry goes,” the statement continued.

The FBI’s effort to label Catholics as violent extremists and infiltrate their churches raise serious concerns about the government’s respect for religious freedom and civil liberties. Indeed, it is yet another example showing how our federal agencies view the Constitution as toilet paper rather than a legal document limiting their operations.

Singling out a particular religious group for surveillance based on their beliefs and practices is not only discriminatory but also unconstitutional. The state should not be in the business of monitoring religious institutions or using them as a source of intelligence gathering.

Moreover, the FBI’s attempts to recruit “sources” within Catholic churches supposedly to combat domestic terrorism are a deeply troubling reminder that our government is more concerned with violating our rights than safeguarding them. By infiltrating churches and trying to recruit informants, the FBI is eroding the trust between religious communities and law enforcement.


Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long line of instances in which the Bureau has been targeting people based on religion and political beliefs. At this point, it is safe to say this conduct is not going to stop anytime soon. But hopefully, CatholicVote’s lawsuit will result in more exposure of what the FBI has been up to.

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.



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