Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said that the FBI is “infiltrating churches” in America and “trying to spy on us.” He added that the law enforcement agency, headed by Director Christopher Wray, apparently views “church-going Americans as akin to terrorists.”
During an interview on Hannity, April 11, host Sean Hannity asked Hawley if he believed that Attorney General Merrick Garland had lied to him about FBI informants in churches when he testified before the Senate on March 1.
Senator Hawley replied, “Sure looks like it, Sean. Sure looks like it.”
“Listen, he knew at the time that he couldn’t answer the question because it looks so bad,” said Hawley. “He knew that it looked beyond the pale and it is beyond the pale, Sean, for the FBI to be going into any church in America and trying to spy on Americans, and now we know that’s exactly what they were doing.”
“They are infiltrating churches,” siad the senator. “They are trying to spy on us. They regard churches apparently as the enemy and church-going Americans as akin to terrorists.”
Hawley continued, “And, yes, the attorney general sat right there and told me, no, we don’t do that, and now we know they do in fact target churches, and they have been. There’s got to be accountability for this, Sean. He’s got to be called on the carpet, the House needs to call him, the Senate should call him, too. But the Democrats will never do it.”
“There’s got to be some accountability and the targeting of Christians and churches has got to end,” added Hawley.
Hannity then read from an April 10 letter sent by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to FBI Director Christopher Wray. In that letter, Jordan discusses an FBI memo about infiltrating certain traditional Catholic churches and cultivating sources. The letter also noted that the committee has sent a subpoena to Wray to release documents on its church-monitoring operation.
Commenting on the letter, Hawley said, “Well, number one, yeah, it looks like they were involved in recruitment. Look, all I know is what the House Judiciary Committee turned up, which is actual evidence that the FBI did go, Sean, and cultivate — I think they called it undercover sources at these Catholic parishes, that they stood up a program to try to get into these Catholic Churches.”
“And, Sean, you and I both know, if they’re doing it in Catholic Churches, they’re doing it in other Christian churches,” said Hawley. “They’re probably doing it in Orthodox communities. It’s all over.”
He continued, “This is a policy on their part, and we’ve seen it before, Sean, we’ve seen them use SWAT teams against pro-life Catholics. We have seen them go after parents who dare to question what they’re doing in schools.”
“This is a pattern and practice of this administration to use law enforcement against anybody who questions them and especially to use it against people of faith,” said the senator.
On Feb. 8, an FBI memo from the Richmond, Va., field office was leaked to the public.
The memo explains how the FBI is assessing an alleged increase in the association of “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology.”
The memo includes a list of Catholic organizations that were tagged as “hate groups” by the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Some of the so-called “hate groups” include listed include Catholic Family News, Culture Wars/Fidelity Press, The Fatima Crusader/International Fatima Rosary Crusade, The Remnant newspaper, and Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Apparently, none of these organizations has a history of violent extremism or of promoting violence.
In a Feb. 10 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, 20 state attorneys general criticize the FBI memo on First Amendment/religious freedom grounds and note that the SPLC “has been utterly discredited as a reliable source.”
“This country was founded on the right of all people to worship in the church, mosque, or synagogue of their choice, free from government interference,” state the attorneys general. “Countless millions were drawn to our country because of that very right. Indeed, some of our first States were founded as safe havens for religious dissenters. There is no right more sacred to American democracy than the right to worship freely.”
“We are horrified to learn that at least one field office of the FBI apparently does not agree with this proposition,” said the attorneys general. “Anti-Catholic bigotry appears to be festering in the FBI, and the Bureau is treating Catholics as potential terrorists because of their beliefs.”
Although the FBI memo clearly targets Catholic organizations and apparently Catholic churches, it is not yet known if the FBI is also monitoring or infiltrating synagogues, mosques, and Protestant Christian churches.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Under the Constitution, the federral government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion.
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