Republican lawmakers are sounding the alarm after a senior Justice Department official labeled a prominent religious liberty organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, as a “hate group.”
“Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the nation’s foremost champions of religious liberty and the constitutional rights of all Americans,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “It’s appalling that a Department of Justice staffer would consider this mission hateful. I’m proud to stand with ADF in its fight for religious liberty.”
“Attorney General Merrick Garland must ensure that the DOJ faithfully executes justice for all, and he should investigate this incident,” Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the Justice Department official’s comment “outrageous” and slammed the agency’s credibility.
“A DOJ lawyer slandering honest, law-abiding Americans as members of a ‘hate group’ simply because of their Christian faith is outrageous,” Rubio told The Daily Signal in a prepared statement.
“Attorney General Garland promised to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor,” Rubio said, adding: “The credibility of his department continues to shatter.”
Eric P. Bruskin, assistant director of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, made the derogatory comment about Alliance Defending Freedom in response to a LinkedIn post by Jason Weida, formerly an assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts. Weida is now a state health official in Florida, as The Daily Signal previously reported.
Weida recently shared this LinkedIn post:
[I’m] [h]onored to speak with Matt Sharp at Alliance Defending Freedom about the work we’re doing in Florida to protect kids from experimental medical interventions and to defend parental rights, all thanks to the leadership of Governor [Ron] DeSantis.
In response, the Justice Department’s Bruskin wrote:
Jason, this is a hate group. You’re speaking at a conference for a hate group. Are these the beliefs you hold? If so, then it’s time we end our professional association.
Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, describes itself as “the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.”
Bruskin has worked for the Justice Department for 13 years, first as a trial attorney from 2009 to 2016, then as a senior trial counsel from 2016 to 2020, and most recently as an assistant director starting in 2020, according to his LinkedIn page.
Prior to joining the Justice Department, Bruskin worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, of Massachusetts for about five months in 2009, from May through September.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., shared similar concerns to those of Rubio and Cruz, and reupped his call for Garland’s impeachment.
“This is yet another indication that senior leadership at the DOJ has abdicated any sense of decency and impartiality,” Perry, who chairs the House’s Freedom Caucus, told The Daily Signal in a written statement, adding:
The weaponization of the instruments of federal power is so deeply systemic now, that its senior officials feel free to open fire on well-respected advocacy groups dedicated to protecting the religious freedom and free speech rights of all Americans.
This kind of unbridled and abusive targeting of civically engaged conservatives is why I have called for the impeachment of Attorney General Garland.
Lauren Fine, a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Bruskin’s comment is part of a larger pattern within the Biden administration to target Americans who hold different opinions or values.
In a statement provided to The Daily Signal, Fine said:
Alliance for Defending Freedom defends the religious freedoms and First Amendment rights of Americans from all walks of life, and it is despicable that someone working for our Justice Department would call them a hate group.
This follows a disturbing pattern in the Biden administration of labeling those they disagree with as hate groups or terrorists, and there should be no tolerance for it.
“The federal government exists to serve its citizens, not attack them for their political beliefs,” Fine added.
The Daily Signal sought comment from the Justice Department for a response to the Republican lawmakers’ reaction but did not receive one by publication time.
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