FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Advancing American Freedom, a policy advocacy group launched by former Vice President Mike Pence, is demanding answers from the FBI about its memo urging agents to develop “sources with access,” including in “places of worship,” to probe an alleged relationship between “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” and “radical-traditional Catholic ideology.”
“This leaked document targeting traditional Catholics is disturbing to all people of faith,” J. Marc Wheat, general counsel at Advancing American Freedom, told The Daily Signal on Thursday. “The First Amendment guarantees free exercise of religion, without surveillance or fear of being labeled as extremists by the federal government.”
The FBI publicly announced in a statement that it was rescinding the memo about Catholics after FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin published it Feb. 8 on UncoverDC.com. The national FBI office claimed that the memo “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI” and promised to remove the document from its systems and “conduct a review of the basis for the document,” but it refused to answer further questions about the move.
The FBI memo cited the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center, including a list of organizations the SPLC brands “radical traditional Catholic hate groups.” As I explain in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it used to bankrupt organizations associated with the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized that program against conservative groups, partially to scare donors into ponying up cash and partially to silence ideological opponents. The SPLC places conservative groups on a “hate map” with KKK chapters.
In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he ordered the Justice Department—of which the FBI is a part—not to partner with groups that “discriminate.” Speaking of the SPLC, Sessions pledged that the Justice Department would not “partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.” Seraphin and other FBI sources told The Daily Signal that the FBI had previously trained analysts not to cite the SPLC.
The Pence group’s Freedom of Information Act request demands that the Justice Department release any documents regarding “the subject of Christian belief” and specifies that “‘Christian belief’ includes, but is not limited to, such terms as ‘radical-traditionalist Catholic,’ ‘RTC,’ ‘Vatican II,’ ‘traditionalist Catholics,’ ‘John Paul II,’ ‘Benedict XVI,’ ‘Latin Mass,’ ‘Novus Ordo Missae,’ ‘Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP),’ ‘Society of St. Pius X (SSPX),’ ‘Opus Dei,’ ‘evangelical,’ ‘protestant,’ ‘Anglican,’ ‘Baptist,’ ‘Episcopal,’ and ‘Orthodox.’”
Pence’s organization asked the FBI to turn over all communications on this subject, including outreach, public education, listening sessions, and more, along with any record that would reveal “the identity and title of any FBI employee who reviewed or approved the document in question or any of the documents cited or used in its creation, including the Richmond FBI field office’s Intelligence Analyst, Supervisory Intelligence Analyst (SIA), and Chief Division Counsel (CDC), and Intelligence Squad.”
The Daily Signal filed a similar request under the Freedom of Information Act earlier this month, specifically demanding documents pertaining to Catholicism and the SPLC.
Advancing American Freedom also requested Justice Department documents regarding the violent attacks against pro-life organizations that occurred after the May 2 leak of the Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, as well as documents concerning the department’s subpoena targeting Eagle Forum of Alabama. Pence’s group has yet to receive responses to the requests, both filed in September.
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