JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In an effort to protect Missourians’ religious freedoms, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and 19 other attorneys general directed a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland condemning an anti-Catholic internal memorandum created by the Richmond, Virginia, FBI field office. The memo, which became public on February 8, 2023, targets Catholics as potential threats due to their religious beliefs.
“As Attorney General, I will protect the Constitution, which includes the basic right to religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment,” said Attorney General Bailey. “We already knew that President Biden was launching an attack on the First Amendment rights of Americans, as evidenced by our landmark free speech case Missouri v. Biden, but now it’s clear that he’ll weaponize unelected federal bureaucrats to go after any American who doesn’t worship the ‘right way.’ The First Amendment includes both the right to free speech and religious liberty for a reason, and my office will use any tool necessary to defend the rights of all Missourians to worship as they please.”
The memorandum distinguishes between what the FBI deems acceptable and unacceptable Catholic beliefs and practices. The memorandum suggests that there are “radical-traditionalists” who could be “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”
The letter sent by the attorneys general posits that the FBI’s memorandum deploys "alarmingly detailed theological distinctions to distinguish between the Catholics whom the FBI deems acceptable, and those it does not… Among those beliefs which distinguish the bad Catholics from the good ones are a preference for ‘the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings,’ and adherence to traditional Catholic teachings on sex and marriage (which the memorandum glibly describes as ‘anti-LGBTQ.’"
Bailey and the other attorneys general assert that the FBI memorandum "even appears to accuse the Supreme Court and the Governor of Virginia of ‘[c]atalyzing’ the bad Catholics through ‘legislation or judicial decisions in areas such as abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action, and LGBTQ protections,’ singling out the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and Governor Youngkin’s support for sensible abortion regulations as examples."
In the letter, General Bailey and the other states demand that the FBI and DOJ "desist from investigating and surveilling Americans who have done nothing more than exercise their natural and constitutional right to practice their religion in a manner of their choosing" and asked that the FBI "reveal to the American public the extent to which they have engaged in such activities."
"We are the chief legal officers of our respective States charged not only with enforcing the law, but also with securing the civil rights of our citizens," the attorneys general continue. "The FBI must immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices.”
The attorneys general request a full explanation of the document’s origins, documents related to its implementation, information regarding how this document has already affected Virginia’s Catholic population, and information on whether the FBI has begun infiltrating houses of worship in conflict with the FBI’s internal guidelines.
Joining Missouri in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The full letter can be read here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/letter-to-attorney-general-garland-director-wray-(2-10-2023)-(002).pdf?sfvrsn=71661cd5_2