Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) with the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today demanded the Department of Justice (DOJ) not interfere with local school board meetings or threaten the use of federal law enforcement to deter parents’ free speech. This comes after DOJ issued a memorandum suggesting federal law enforcement may need to assist policing local school board meetings.
“We are concerned about the appearance of the Department of Justice policing the speech of citizens and concerned parents. We urge you to make very clear to the American public that the Department of Justice will not interfere with the rights of parents to come before school boards and speak with educators about their concerns, whether regarding coronavirus-related measures, the teaching of critical race theory in schools, sexually explicit books in schools, or any other topic,”the senators wrote.
“To be clear, violence and true threats of violence are not protected speech and have no place in the public discourse of a democracy… However, the FBI should not be involved in quashing and criminalizing discourse that is well beneath violent acts… It is not appropriate to use the awesome powers of the federal government – including the PATRIOT Act, a statute designed to thwart international terrorism – to quash those who question local school boards,”the senators continued.
Last month, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden asking for help from federal law enforcement, referencing the PATRIOT Act, a statute that helps the federal government fight international terrorism. NSBA highlighted situations involving angry parents often frustrated by COVID-19 mask mandates for children and the possibility of incorporating critical race theory into the academic curriculum. Angry parents are not necessarily threatening parents and these discussions are clearly protected under the First Amendment.
In addition to Lee, the letter is signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).