Top Senate Republicans are examining the FBI’s rescinded memo on “radical traditionalist Catholics,” seeking assurances that the agency will stop targeting religious groups based on information from the Poverty Law Center and other “unreliable sources.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested an unredacted copy of the January 23 internal intelligence report from the FBI’s Richmond field office, as well as all related correspondence and policies.
newsletter, placed last month on the conservative news site UncoverDC.com, former FBI agent Kyle Serafin warned of “violent extremists” who follow “radical traditionalist Catholic ideology” and listed nine “RTC hate groups” identified by the SPLC, saying they opportunities for “threat reduction” are present.
“The report suggested infiltrating the Church to find informants and gather information,” the letter said Wednesday from two Republicans in the Senate – Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“While the FBI retracted this report quickly after it was focused on the public – which was clearly the right move – its preparation, approval and release further demonstrates the crisis brewing within the FBI and its leadership, which has time and again not manages to contain such blatant bias,” the senators said.
The FBI retracted the document shortly after it was released on February 8, saying it did not meet the bureau’s “rigorous standards.”
The senators also asked for answers on how the report was approved; whether participants will be disciplined and whether the agency uses other SPLC-based reports.
“Can you assure us that no further action, investigative or otherwise, will be taken against traditional Christians or other religious groups where the SPLC or similar unreliable sources are used or where the basis of the action is constitutionally protected activity and not specific threats of violence?” asked the senators.
The Senate investigation is the latest demand to answer the oft-condemned ballot, and it has heightened concerns on the right about the politicization of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan demanded all FBI documents and communications related to the leaked report, while 20 Republican attorneys general convicted document as a “religious attack” on Catholics.
Attorney General Merrick Garland condemned the report and insisted that “the FBI is not targeting Catholics.” the grill Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
“The Department of Justice does not do this, it does not conduct investigations based on religion,” Mr. Garland said. “I saw the document you sent. It’s terrible. It’s terrible. I completely agree with you. It is my understanding that the FBI has withdrawn it and is now investigating how this could have happened.”
The department has charged more than 20 pro-life activists with felonies related to protests at abortion clinics since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, while making only two arrests for 81 office attacks pro-life and pregnancy centers.
The document, whose sources include the left-wing publications Salon and The Atlantic, says that the “RTC” is characterized by its rejection of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II); disdain for most popes elected since then and “frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideologies.”
The senators said the SPLC “reportedly offers no cases of violence to support its claims that traditional Catholics are associated with white supremacist groups, and the SPLC is notoriously inaccurate and irresponsible about ‘hate groups.’
Mr. Serafin, who was suspended from the FBI without pay in June 2022, said that while he was at the FBI, “we were briefed that the SPLC was not legitimate when I was at Quantico.” respectively to the right of the Daily Signal.
The SPLC is known for its “hate map,” which groups neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan with mainstream conservative groups like the Family Research Council and the Alliance for Freedom.
“And this begs the question of why the FBI would ever use the SPLC as a source when it has consistently shown bias against conservative organizations,” the senators said.
In 2012, gunman Floyd Lee Corkins II attacked the Family Study Council building in Washington, D.C., shooting and wounding a security guard, after seeing the group on the SPLC website as anti-gay.