It’s possible the visitor at the end of the pew may not have joined Sunday morning worship with pure motives.
At least one U.S. senator is up in arms over findings from the House Judiciary Committee released this week that said the FBI used an informant on at least one occasion to infiltrate a local Catholic church. Records show there were also efforts to develop sources within Catholic diocese on the pretext of combatting what the agency labels as “domestic terrorism.”
Concerning as an isolated incident of spying on church members might be, the House findings represent another layer in a pattern of behavior that shows the DOJ is unconcerned with the rights of those who support traditional values.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) was quick to contact Attorney General Merrick Garland since Garland, in a March 1 exchange on Capitol Hill, told Hawley the Justice Department does not conduct interviews based on religion. The GOP lawmaker pressed further then and asked the AG how many informants he has in Catholic churches across America. Garland’s response was vague at first before he became more definitive:
Garland: “I don’t know … and I don’t believe we have any informants aimed at Catholic churches. We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity.”
Hawley was a guest on Fox News program “Hannity” Tuesday night when host Sean Hannity asked him if he felt he’d been lied to by Garland. “It sure looks like it,” the senator replied.
Hawley wants answers from AG
In a letter to Garland on Tuesday, Hawley demanded answers for what he called “false testimony” when the AG was questioned about arrests of people of faith. “Everyone involved with this chilling surveillance campaign must face accountability,” Hawley wrote.
The letter specifically demanded that Garland provide immediate answers to three questions:
- How many undercover informants or other agents in Catholic parishes or other organizations does the Department work with or otherwise employ?
- How many undercover informants or other agents, in religious organizations more broadly, does the Department work with or otherwise employ?
- Within which, and how many, FBI field offices was guidance related to the infiltration of traditionalist Catholic parishes distributed?
“It is beyond the pale 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,” Hawley stated on the Fox News program. “They are infiltrating churches. They are trying to spy on us. They regard churches, apparently, as the enemy and church-going Americans as akin to terrorists.”
A clear pattern
Garland authorized the use of the FBI when concerned parents spoke out at a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia in 2021. A pattern seems to develop when matters of faith and certain “woke” culture talking points go head-to-head in court cases. The levels of prosecution can seem tilted against Christians.
For example: Pro-life activist Mark Houck, a Catholic father of seven, was found not guilty on charges of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Until the verdict was handed down in late January, he faced the possibility of 11 years in prison for a shove that can be seen in this CBN News report. Houck’s attorney, from the conservative legal group the Thomas More Society, called the case against his client “pure harassment.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice that so vigorously pursued Houck will not seek jail time for Maeve Nota, a man who identifies as a woman who admitted to vandalizing the St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington. Nota sprayed vulgarities on the church, destroyed a Virgin Mary statue, smashed two doors, assaulted a church staff worker and resisted arrest.
For all of that, the DOJ is expected to recommend just three years of probation with no jail time when Nota is sentenced on June 2nd.
In contrast, Houck’s wife told the Catholic News Agency that a SWAT team of about 25 came to her house to arrest her husband on Sept. 23, 2022.
“Mark Houck’s experience was based on a squabble involving maybe one shove outside an abortion clinic. They tried to take a father protecting his son, Mark Houck, and subjected him to a jury trial for an 11-year sentence is what they proposed. It took the jury acquitting him to get the Department of Justice off his back,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-North Carolina) told Washington Watch this week.
“In this instance [with Nota], this very serious vandalism, the DOJ is content not to seek any time at all and give [Nota] a sweetheart deal. It is another piece of evidence in this continuing stream that suggests the Department of Justice is no friend to people exercising religious faith and is, in fact, hostile to such people,” the North Carolina Republican said.
A disturbing body of work
As the country’s top law enforcement officer, Garland is developing a body of work that should be disturbing to Christians, Bishop said.
“Now when he stands up with that record before Josh Hawley in the Senate and says, ‘Oh, there’s nothing going on. We don’t target people of religious activity’ – when this evidence has emerged, I think it’s something far more insidious, and I cannot [attribute] that to a lack of information,” Bishop said. “I think [Garland] knows what’s happening, and I think he’s covering for it.”
Hawley’s letter also demanded that Garland immediately comply with all oversight requests by the House Judiciary Committee.
“If they’re doing it in Catholic churches, they’re doing it in other Christian churches – and they’re probably doing it in Orthodox communities,” the senator said. “You know for a fact they’re not just cherry-picking. This is a policy for them. We’ve seen this before. 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.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.