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FIRST AT DW: House Republicans Rebuke Merrick Garland Over Schools Memo: ‘This Is Not Domestic Terrorism’

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UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 25 (FILE): Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and members of the House Freedom Caucus conduct a news conference outside the Capitol to oppose the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, on Thursday February 25, 2021.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Republicans, led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), have sent a letter to Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland calling his recent schools memo an effort to weaponize the DOJ and curb Constitutional rights. The DOJ memo, dated earlier this week, pledged to address threats against school officials and comes amidst a wave of parent opposition to Critical Race Theory and mask mandates.

The Republican letter, issued Thursday, takes Garland to task for a “recent announcement that you intend to mobilize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to address the ‘threat of violence against school administrators.’ Your decision comes after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden referring to parents’ concerns regarding critical race theory in the classroom as ‘propaganda’ and asserting that education leaders are being threatened by ‘domestic terrorism.'”

Roy has led the way in efforts to curb the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, introducing, along with 26 other House Republicans, the Combatting Racist Teaching in Schools Act, which would keep “American taxpayer dollars from going to any school that promotes critical race theory (CRT),” per a statement on the measure. He has also spoken out forcefully on the teaching of CRT or CRT-tangential concepts in public schools.

Roy and House Republicans have now expressed their concerns directly to Garland, referencing a DOJ memo that emerged earlier this week.

The memo, as Fox News has noted, discussed “efforts to combat violence, threats and ‘efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views’ related to state and local school boards and officials.”

“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools,” the memo said, without citing specific examples. “While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, the protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.”

“The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate,” the memo said.

The memo comes in response to a National School Board Association plea to the DOJ asking the federal government to investigate and potentially prosecute individuals who threaten school officials under the PATRIOT Act. The NSBA’s letter also appeared to directly reference several confrontations between parents and school board members over Critical Race Theory, as well as several confrontations over face mask mandates and COVID-related school policies.

“These heinous actions,” the NSBA said in its letter, referring to threats and confrontations, “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

House Republicans pressed back against that allegation, specifically, in their letter.

The First Amendment protects the right of parents across the country to make their voices heard in opposition to school mask mandates and the radical anti-American critical race theory. This is not ‘domestic terrorism,’ it is protected speech. Calling upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate parents for conflicting views on controversial teachings and policies is a massive overreach of your role as the Attorney General. Under no circumstance should your Department spend time and resources on investigations meant to intimidate American parents into silence.

“Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our country’s founding. The DOJ should never be weaponized to curb this most foundational freedom. Therefore – and without any information on true threats of federal concern – we request that you immediately rescind your directive and provide a briefing to Members of Congress by October 20th, 2021 on why you made your decision to attack parents.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Attorney General Garland,

We are deeply concerned by your recent announcement that you intend to mobilize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to address the “threat of violence against school administrators.” Your decision comes after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden referring to parents’ concerns regarding critical race theory in the classroom as “propaganda” and asserting that education leaders are being threatened by “domestic terrorism.”

The First Amendment protects the right of parents across the country to make their voices heard in opposition to school mask mandates and the radical anti-American critical race theory.  This is not “domestic terrorism,” it is protected speech.  Calling upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate parents for conflicting views on controversial teachings and policies is a massive overreach of your role as the Attorney General.  Under no circumstance should your Department spend time and resources on investigations meant to intimidate American parents into silence.

Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our country’s founding. The DOJ should never be weaponized to curb this most foundational freedom. Therefore – and without any information on true threats of federal concern – we request that you immediately rescind your directive and provide a briefing to Members of Congress by October 20, 2021 on why this decision to attack parents was made. . 

Sincerely,

Chip Roy

Member of Congress

The letter was also signed by Reps. David B. McKinley (R-WV), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Bob Good (R-VA), Randy Weber (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Mary E. Miller (R-IL), Ted Budd (R-NC), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Van Taylor (R-TX), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Bill Posey (R-FL), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Andy Harris M.D. (R-MD), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Tom Tiffany (R-WI), Brian Mast (R-FL), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Dan Bishop (R-NC), Barry Moore (R-AL), Scott Perry (R-PA), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-FL), Jody Hice (R-GA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Lance Gooden (R-TX), and Brian Babin (R-TX).

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