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RICHMOND, Va. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A cat-and-mouse game is underway between the House Judiciary Committee and the FBI over the bureau's apparent attempts to infiltrate Catholic churches.
"The Committee on the Judiciary is conducting oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) handling of domestic violent extremism investigations against Catholic Americans and its effect on protected First Amendment activity," wrote House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in a letter Monday to FBI director Christopher Wray.
In January, the FBI's Richmond field office generated a "domain perspective" document titled "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities."
In February, Jordan and Committee member Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., requested information from the FBI connected to that document.
The FBI failed to respond, forcing the Committee to send a second request on March 20. The FBI replied on March 23 with an 18-page letter the Committee deemed "substandard and partial," preventing the Committee from conducting a proper analysis of the situation.
In a tweet on Monday, Jordan stated: "We now know the FBI, relying on information derived from at least one undercover employee, sought to use local religious organizations as 'new avenues for tripwire and source development.'"
We now know the FBI, relying on information derived from at least one undercover employee, sought to use local religious organizations as "new avenues for tripwire and source development."— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) April 10, 2023
"Chilling," he concluded.
An example of the FBI's chilling conduct found in its Jan. 23 document reads: "In addition to [redaction], engage in outreach to the leadership of other [Society of St. Pius X] chapels in the FBI Richmond [area of responsibility] to sensitize these congregations to the warning signs of radicalization and to enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires."
The "domain perspective" in the Richmond area further included an outreach plan to "mainline Catholic parishes" and local "diocesan leadership," referencing a wish "to sensitize the congregation to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires."
In February, Richmond's bishop, Barry Knestout, stated in a press release:
The leaked document should be troubling and offensive to all communities of faith, as well as all Americans. … If evidence of extremism exists, it should be rooted out, but not at the expense of religious freedom. A preference for traditional forms of worship and holding closely to the Church's teachings on marriage, family, human sexuality, and the dignity of the human person does not equate with extremism.
Knestaut also thanked the Virginia Attorney General, Jason Miyares, and 19 attorneys general for a letter demanding the FBI "immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices," and "produce publicly all materials relating to the memorandum and its production."
The letter adds that "the document includes an appendix with a list of Catholic 'hate groups' that was assembled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), apparently without any independent vetting from the FBI."
In a press release, Miyares clarified the SPLC report in question is "widely discredited."
Breitbart recently asked Traditional Latin Mass attendee Fred Simon what his message to the FBI would be for considering TLM goers extremists and possibly placing spies in churches.
"C'mon. Welcome," he said. "Join the Latin Mass. Come see what it's about."
"Don't listen to the Southern Poverty Law Center," Simon added. "Come for yourself; see what it's about. Then perform your own judgment. Think for yourself."
In Miyares' press release, the attorney general declared: "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," he added.
It is a well-known tactic of communist and socialist systems to infiltrate and dominate religious institutions or eradicate them altogether.
For example, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics established by the Bolsheviks in 1922 led a fierce campaign of confiscating religious property, harassing believers and teaching atheism in schools.
In 1976, Albania banned religion altogether. Article 37 of the 1976 Albanian Constitution stated: "The State recognizes no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in the people." The country's 1977 penal code called for a 3–10 year prison sentence for "religious propaganda and the production, distribution, or storage of religious literature."
A 2023 draft version of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) rules governing religion stipulates that a religious venue can keep its operating license only if it "supports the leadership of the CCP, supports the socialist system, carries out an in-depth implementation of Xi Jinping thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, abides by the Constitution, laws, regulations, rules and relevant provisions of the management of religious affairs, practices the core values of socialism, adheres to the direction of Sinicization of religion."
The House Judiciary underscores what, perhaps, is the most chilling aspect of the FBI's attempts to infiltrate Catholic churches: "Whistleblowers have advised that the FBI distributed this document to field offices across the country."
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