GOP Congress Members Demand Answers From DOJ About Parents’ Free Speech Rights

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
October 15, 2021 Updated: October 20, 2021

House Judiciary Committee Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding an ethics review and public report regarding the AG’s memo, which directs the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Attorneys to use law enforcement to investigate parents who “intimidate” school board members.

“This letter is to express our serious concerns about your recent decision to involve federal law enforcement entities in local school board debates and to stifle First Amendment-protected political speech. Your actions are not just inappropriate, but also appear to have been improperly influenced by politics and by your family’s interest in the matter,” wrote the Republican Judiciary Committee members in their letter (pdf), including Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.).

jim jordan mike johnson
L: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in Baltimore, Md., on Sept. 12, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times) R: Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 27, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The letter is referring to the memorandum that Garland sent to federal agency heads on Oct. 4 directing the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to mobilize their states’ law enforcement to investigate parents who “threaten violence” toward school board members or administration officials.

“While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views,” stated Garland’s memo.

Garland’s memo came only days after the National School Board Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to crack down on parents who are “threatening” school boards.

“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” stated the NSBA’s letter.

Parents across the United States and most prominently in Loudon County, Virginia, have been speaking out at crowded school board meetings to oppose some of the curriculum being used in their children’s public schools and divisive ideas such as America is systemically racist. Parents in many areas have also been questioning some of the sexual content in the books being used at their children’s schools.

Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas) one of the Reps. who signed the letter to Garland, said he attended Loudon County public schools for most of his childhood but that now the curriculum being taught is an “embarrassment.”

school board meeting
A crowd is seen at a Loudoun County School Board meeting in Ashburn, Va. (File Photo/Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

“I also want to know where he thinks he has the power to send FBI into communities to go after parents who are simply going to the school board to express their discontent with what’s happening in school boards,” Roy told Newsmax on Thursday.

A Virginia mother, Asra Nomani, told The Epoch Times those parents are only advocating for what they think is best for their children.

She is the vice president of strategy and investigation with Parents Defending Education, an organization working to “reclaim our schools from activists promoting harmful agendas,” their webpage states.

Nomani said in an Oct. 8 interview that parents going to school board meetings are, “asking the school board serious questions about how money is spent, the ideology that’s being promoted in the classroom, and these school board members don’t like getting these hard questions.”

“What’s happening in Loudoun County, Virginia, is incomprehensible. … And parents obviously have a right to exercise free speech and demand accountability from public officials. … This should be the time for all parents to get engaged. Do it lawfully, exercise your free speech, but certainly, we have to have some accountability at these local school boards,” Rep. Johnson said during a recent interview with Fox News.

Nomani’s advice to parents is to not be intimidated by the DOJ’s directive but to continue to voice their opposition to the ideas they disagree with, at public school board meetings and videotape their interactions.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Republicans’ letter to the AG.

Masooma Haq