Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary have asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to withdraw the memo (PDF) he wrote in response to the National School Boards Association’s letter (PDF) to President Joe Biden requesting that the federal government investigate parents under the Patriot Act for “domestic terrorism.”
Parents across the country have been attending local school board meetings to speak out against “transgender” policies, mask mandates, and the teaching of “critical race theory.” Many of those parents are angry, and the NSBA claimed that concerned parents have threatened violence.
Attorney General Garland wrote that he would direct federal law enforcement officials to discuss strategies for dealing with a “disturbing spike” in “threats of violence.”
The NSBA’s Board of Directors issued a letter of apology to its state school board members, contending that “there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter” authored by NSBA president Viola M. Garcia and Interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven.
Garcia and Slaven asked for “federal assistance to stop threats” against school board members and review “appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism…”
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, lawmakers asked the attorney general about this memo. He said he didn’t mention domestic terrorism or the Patriot Act. The attorney general tried to distance himself from the letter’s assertions.
“Like you, 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 terrorists.”
But that wasn’t good enough for alarmed lawmakers. An excerpt (PDF) of their letter to the attorney general (emphasis added):
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. Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, especially as school boards attempt to install controversial curricula. Local law enforcement—and not the FBI—are the appropriate authorities to address any local threats or violence.
Since the NSBA’s letter provided the basis for Attorney General Garland’s memo, lawmakers asked that he withdraw it. The memo “has been and will continue to be read as threatening parents and chilling their protected First Amendment rights…”
Photo credit: By Senate Democrats – SCHUMER MEETS WITH JUDGE GARLAND, CC BY 2.0, link
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