WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) had a tense confrontation with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday concerning the Biden administration Department of Justice’s treatment of traditional Catholics as “violent extremists.”
In February, a leaked memo from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified “Radical Traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology” as a potential motivator for “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists,” citing a study by far-left attack group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The FBI quickly retracted that memo, which Garland later disavowed as “appalling,” but that was far from the end of concerns about religious intolerance within the federal law enforcement bureaucracy. This summer, the House Judiciary Committee obtained documents revealing that, contrary to previous assurance, multiple FBI field offices were involved in spying on Catholic communities.
.@Congressman_JVD EXPLODES on AG Garland For The 'Anti-Catholic' FBI Memo
VAN DREW: "Yes or no…Do you agree that Traditional Catholics are domestic extremists?"
GARLAND: "The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous… pic.twitter.com/zqwAHbuYNj
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 20, 2023
“The two tiered system of justice is clear and it’s clear to the American public,” Van Drew told Garland on Wednesday. “And the buck stops with the man in charge. That man is you. The actions of the DOJ are on you. The decline of Americans’ trust in our federal law enforcement is on you. The political weaponization of the DOJ is on you. Attorney General, I need a simple yes or no to the following. Just yes or no because we don’t have much time. Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists, yes or no?”
Garland initially said he was unclear on “what traditional means here,” but took umbrage at the “idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion,” which he said was “so outrageous” and “so absurd.”
“Mr. Attorney General, it was your FBI that did this!” Van Drew shot back. “It was your FBI that was sending – and we have the memos, we have the emails – were sending undercover agents into Catholic churches.”
“Both I and the director of the FBI have said that we were appalled by that memo,” Garland said. When pressed further, he eventually acknowledged, “Catholics are not extremists, no.”
Van Drew next asked if anyone involved with the memo had been fired. “I don’t know the answer to that,” Garland said.
The Justice Department’s hostile treatment of disfavored groups while treating actual crimes by ideologically aligned parties far more mildly has been a hallmark of the Biden years, from painting parents critical of left-wing classroom indoctrination as dangerous, to disproportionate prosecution of January 6 protesters for nonviolent offenses. Among the most glaring examples have been pro-life Americans.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade inspired a wave of threats and vandalism against churches and pregnancy centers, yet the perpetrators have mostly gone unpunished and investigations dropped, with Garland citing the supposed difficulty of gathering evidence.
The Justice Department “announced charges against 34 individuals for blocking access to or vandalizing abortion clinics,” whereas “there have been over 81 reported attacks on pregnancy centers, 130 attacks on Catholic churches since the leak of the Dobbs decision [overturning Roe], and only two individuals have been charged,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said in March.
By contrast, last year the federal government not only charged pro-life activist Mark Houck with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for a 2021 altercation with a violent pro-abortion agitator that had already been resolved at the local level, but arrested him in an armed morning raid of his home. Houck was acquitted in January, but those responsible for his treatment have not been removed from government; in July, FBI director Christopher Wray said he would not “second guess the judgment of the career agents on the ground” who orchestrated the raid.