Last week, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding answers on why the Department of Justice (DOJ) is targeting parents who speak out in opposition to school board decisions.
“President Biden is using the Justice Department as a political weapon,” said Rep. Stewart. “This is just the most recent example of his apparent commitment to silencing any opposition to his agenda. Threatening violence and disrupting public meetings are never acceptable, and Attorney General Garland is right that some of these acts may be criminal. But none of this constitutes a federal offense, and it certainly doesn’t warrant FBI involvement. The Attorney General is clearly attempting to restrict speech that is protected by the First Amendment. He has no right to silence the legitimate concerns of parents. And he has no right to brand these justly concerned parents as domestic terrorists.”
The letter was led by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI). Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Jim Banks (R-IN), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), David McKinley (R-WV), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Fred Keller (R-PA), Greg Steube (R-FL), Ann Wagner (R-MO), David Rouzer (R-NC), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Brian Mast (R-FL), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Blake Moore (R-UT), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Michelle Steel (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Ted Budd (R-NC), Burgess Owens (R-UT), Bill Posey (R-FL), Jake Ellzey (R-TX), Van Taylor (R-TX), Tracey Mann (R-KS), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) Troy Balderson (R-OH) Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Kat Cammack (R-FL), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Roger Williams (R-TX), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Ben Cline (R-VA), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Mary Miller (R-IL), Randy Weber (R-TX), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Michael Waltz (R-FL), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) and Mike Garcia (R-CA) also cosigned the letter.
Over the past several months, we have seen increased civic involvement and participation at local government forums, specifically at school board meetings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are taking notice of what and how their children are being taught in the classroom, hot-button social issues being weaved into the curriculum, and what safety protocols their child is supposed to follow while attending school. While some of these meetings may get heated, most of the parents who have been attending these meetings have simply voiced their passions and concerns for their children and their futures.
While we agree with you that any threat of violence against these government officials should be condemned and investigated, no government official has the right to claim that a citizen may not peacefully speak out against government policies. Statements made by officials like former Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who publicly stated, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” are utterly unacceptable. Government officials need to recognize that in our Constitutional republic, they are elected to represent the public. While they should never be subjected to threats, they are not above criticism or disagreement from the citizens who elected them. If we are to live in a free society, it is your job as Attorney General of the United States to defend the rights of all citizens.
Your October 4, 2021, memorandum to several directors across the Department of Justice informed them of your intention as the Attorney General to promulgate “a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.” While we applaud your dedication to combatting criminal activity across the United States, we have grave concerns with your announcement. We are requesting answers to the following questions to provide clarity on your Department’s intentions. Please respond no later than November 15th, 2021:
What specific cases are you referencing in your memorandum that rise to the level of “criminal conduct?”
What criteria/behavior is the Department of Justice considering “criminal conduct?”
What federal statutes do you plan to cite in your prosecution of these parents?
Who will be conducting the investigation into these cases? Please provide details on the roles of the FBI, United States Attorneys, State and local law enforcement, and any other entities that will be involved.
Will you be looking into other cases of alleged intimidation of school board members who have attempted to end COVID-era policies?
As the top law enforcement officer in the United States, it is your responsibility to combat criminal behavior as well as defend the Constitutional rights of all Americans. We hope you will take these duties seriously and not stifle free speech while moving forward with your investigations.