- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Tuesday became the latest state chief legal officer to co-sign a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland protesting the FBI’s since-rescinded classification of “radical-traditionalist Catholics” as a national security threat.

Mr. Paxton, along with Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and 18 other state AGs, want “a full explanation” of how the document originated and whether the FBI has begun infiltrating Roman Catholic congregations.

The designation surfaced in an internal Jan. 23 memo from the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, office that said “radical-traditionalist” church members might also be “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”

The memorandum stated the FBI believes such “radical-traditionalist Catholics” are those who favor the traditional Latin mass and pre-Vatican II teachings. In the past year, Pope Francis has placed severe restrictions on the use of the Latin mass, a move that upset some Catholics.

The FBI later disavowed and withdrew the memorandum, but a backlash continues.

According to the memo, the Richmond office suggested the FBI develop “sources with access” in Catholic congregations. Mr. Miyares said it would mean “that the FBI should start recruiting Catholics to spy on their fellow parishioners.”

In a statement, Mr. Miyares pointed to the irony of involving the FBI’s Richmond office in such a project.

 “Virginia is the birthplace of religious freedom and has a long history of protecting the inalienable right to live your faith free from government interference or intimidation,” he said. “The leaked memo from our state capital’s FBI office is unacceptable, unconstitutional, and un-American. Frankly, it’s what I would expect from Communist Cuba. As Attorney General, I’m responsible for defending Virginians’ rights, and religious freedom is the bedrock of the constitutions of the United States and of Virginia. Virginians should not and will not be labeled ‘violent extremists’ by their government because of how they worship, or because of their beliefs.”

In an email to The Washington Times, Mr. Paxton called the Richmond FBI office’s memo “unconscionable.”

He said “federal bureaucrats appear to be weaponizing their power to target citizens of this country on the basis of their religious beliefs, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

According to the letter, a Southern Poverty Law Center report listed “nine RTC [radical-traditionalist Catholic] hate groups operating in the United States.” The letter notes the SPLC list was used in the document “apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI.”

A footnote in the Miyares-led letter said, “The memorandum’s reliance on the SPLC is particularly disappointing, given that the SPLC has been utterly discredited as a reliable source.”

The SPLC remains a controversial organization following its $3.375 million defamation suit settlement with the British-based Quilliam Foundation and its founder Maajid Nawaz after being placed on a list of “anti-Muslim extremists.”

The group was also cited in the case of Floyd Lee Corkins, who entered the Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council in 2012 and seriously wounded a building manager before being subdued. Corkins, now serving a 25-year prison term, said the SPLC’s list of “hate groups” inspired his attack.

Along with Mr. Paxton, attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia signed the letter.

The attorneys general are not the only parties upset over the memo. On Feb. 16, Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, also called on Mr. Wray to turn over information on the memo.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ first name.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories