Faith-based advocacy group CatholicVote filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and FBI on Thursday for failing to provide a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to a leaked memo from the bureau targeting “Radical Traditional Catholics.”
CatholicVote and non-profit government watchdog group Judicial Watch said federal authorities have refused to turn over legal documents and communications to them after filing a FOIA request on March 8. According to the plaintiffs, FOIA requests typically require agencies to respond within 20 business days, with an additional 10 for “unusual circumstances.”
Due to the delay in response, President Brian Burch told Fox News that the Biden Justice Department had left them with no choice but to sue federal authorities, demanding why they planned to spy on Catholic churches and treat its members as domestic terrorists.
“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,” Burch said in a news release.
Last month, FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin published a leaked document from the bureau’s Richmond Field Office that explicitly points to “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists in radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology.” Through tripwires and liaisons, which are trusted contacts, Seraphin noted, the FBI can employ threat mitigation against such groups ahead of the next election.
The document, which relied on ideologically driven criteria from Left-wing sources like the Southern Poverty Law Center, drew attention to the so-called Radical-Traditional Catholic, which authorities described as someone who rejects the Second Vatican Council as a valid church council, shows disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II, and frequently adheres to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacy views.
Following the leak of the unclassified intelligence document, FBI authorities purged its system and began reviewing the basis for it.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said during congressional testimony the memo “does not reflect FBI standards.”
“We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop,” Wray said. “We have also now ordered our inspection division to take a look at how this happened and try to figure out how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said earlier this month that internal documents released by House Judiciary Committee showed at least one undercover FBI employee sought to monitor parishioners in Catholic houses of worship to combat domestic terrorism using tripwire and sources.
Jordan, who called the memo “chilling,” issued a subpoena after the documents revealed the FBI planned to use churches as “new avenues for tripwire and source development,” which churchgoers fear sends a message that federal law enforcement may be listening while Americans practice their First Amendment right to worship freely.
The FBI told The Daily Wire the agency received the subpoena, adding the bureau “recognizes the importance of congressional oversight and remains fully committed to cooperating with Congress’s oversight requests consistent with its constitutional and statutory responsibilities.”
“The FBI is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information – including voluntary production of documents,” a spokesperson told The Daily Wire.
CatholicVote said the subpoena from Jordan confirmed “that the leaked memo, originally disavowed under oath by Attorney General Garland as an isolated incident initiated by a low-level rogue agent, was actually approved by senior intelligence analysts and distributed to field offices across the country.”
“We are demanding transparency from our government and are determined to uncover just how high up the anti-Catholic bigotry goes,” Burch said.
Burch attributed the actions from federal authorities as part of the “woke agenda” the Biden administration allegedly has weaponized against people of faith.
“Whether you are a parent who wants to hold a school board accountable, or whether you’re a pro-life American who believes that a baby with a heartbeat who feels pain has a right to life,” Burch told Fox News. “Soon, you are considered a domestic threat, and you could be going to church, and the FBI could be listening to you.”
Seraphin, who first published the leaked memo, told The Daily Wire that “the only way to force our government to obey the laws passed by Congress and make them accountable is by suing them.”
“The FBI’s de facto position is to fight FOIA at every turn,” Seraphin said. “When an agency that enforces the law refuses to be subject to the law, they lose legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Of course, it is no surprise the FBI doesn’t respect the First Amendment. Protected civil liberties are antithetical to intelligence agencies.”
The FBI and DOJ did not immediately respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment on the lawsuit.