A group of 12 Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee is demanding that Attorney General Merrick Garland rescind a memo directing the FBI to police school board meetings, after the interest group whose complaint prompted the directive apologized for likening parent protests to “domestic terrorism.”
Garland’s memo, which sparked much controversy since its Oct. 4 release, directs the FBI to work with state and local governments to address an alleged “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school leaders.
Garland has admitted that his department issued the memo after communicating with the White House about a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), which urged the Biden administration to invoke counter-terrorism laws to handle “angry mobs” of parents seeking to hold school officials accountable for the teaching of the Marxist critical race theory and for imposing COVID-19 restrictions on their children.
Following widespread criticism, including form state school board groups who oppose the way the memo characterized concerned parents, the NSBA last week walked back its previous message, saying that “there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
In a letter sent to Garland on Monday, the 12 Republicans also argued that the Department of Justice (DOJ) too should withdraw its directive.
“The NSBA expressed regret about and formally apologized for its letter to President Biden,” the Republican members of Congress, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said in the letter. “Because the NSBA letter was the basis for your memorandum and given that your memorandum has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights, the only responsible course of action is for you to fully and unequivocally withdraw your memorandum immediately.”
The Republicans also said they found Garland’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week “troubling.”
“You acknowledged that you issued the unusual directive soon after reading about the thinly sourced letter sent by the [NSBA] to President Biden and not because of any specific request from state or local law enforcement,” they said in the letter.
They added of their concerns, “During your testimony, you sidestepped the obvious effect of your ill-conceived memorandum and the chilling effect that invoking the full weight of the federal law enforcement apparatus would have on parents’ protected First Amendment speech,” noting that parents have “undisputed right” to direct their children’s education, and that it’s not the FBI’s business but rather that of local enforcement to address, if any, threats or violence at local school board meetings.
During the Oct. 21 hearing, Garland was asked whether parents actions of protesting against the decisions of their local school board should be regarded as “domestic terrorism.” He replied that the words “domestic terrorism” were not used in the DOJ memo.
“I want to be clear, the Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as viscerally as they wish, about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in their schools,” Garland said.
“I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the PATRIOT Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor can I imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism,” he added.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the DOJ for comment.