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Supreme Court of the United States

Attorney General Garland Stands By Use of Federal Law Enforcement to Investigate Parents

By Natalie Allen posted on:
October 22, 2021

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to question Attorney General Merrick Garland about a number of recent actions taken by the U.S. Department of Justice. And while several on-going issues were slated to be covered during the hearing, one topic dominated: Attorney General Garland’s October memo directing the FBI and U.S. attorneys to develop strategies for investigating parents who express concerns at local school board meetings—presumably using the same federal laws employed to investigate domestic terrorism and other criminal enterprises.

You can read more about this disturbing memo and ADF’s letter to AG Garland asking him to rescind the directive here .

During the hearing, AG Garland faced numerous questions about the memo. In response, he repeatedly insisted that the directive was focused solely on threats of violence towards local public officials. While that claim may seem reassuring on the surface, AG Garland failed to address several of the main problems raised by his memo:

  1. AG Garland didn’t provide evidence that there is a sweeping, nationwide “threat” from parents that warrants the use of national security tools designed to investigate domestic terrorism and other coordinated criminal enterprises. Local government bodies know to call their local sheriff and police department when there are threats of violence—and they do! Individual instances of violence at school board meetings can be handled locally. There is simply no reason to employ federal law enforcement. Doing so is a misuse of federal power.
  2. The very existence of this memo chills the speech of all parents who wish to voice concerns with their school boards about their children’s education. If you were planning to testify at a school board meeting but thought you could be investigated by the FBI for doing so, you might think twice about sharing your opinion publicly. That chilling of speech can infringe the First Amendment rights of parents to speak out on issues of concern.
  3. Despite public outcry, the investigations requested in the memo are still moving forward. At today’s hearing, AG Garland made it clear that the FBI and U.S. attorneys are moving forward with the meetings to discuss strategies for addressing these “threats” from parents. In fact, when asked by one Congressman how many meetings had already occurred, AG Garland said he wasn’t sure, but that he hopes they are already underway. This ignores several calls from parents and First Amendment advocacy groups to rescind and review the directive in the memo.

The bottom line: Attorney General Garland’s memo is a severe government overreach that chills the constitutionally protected speech of those who rightly object to ill-considered policies that harm our nation’s school children.

Showing up at school board meetings to ask questions about the curriculum your child is being taught, the efficacy of sweeping COVID-19 mandates, or the enforcement of gender identity policies makes you a good parent and a good citizen—not a domestic terrorist. Parents are justifiably concerned that the government has violated their fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children.

ADF stands with concerned parents across the country—the government can’t silence their voices or stop them from peacefully engaging in their children’s education.

Natalie Allen

Natalie Allen

Legislative Communications & Initiatives Coordinator

Natalie worked as a lobbyist at the Family Foundation of Virginia and a grassroots associate at Heritage Action for America before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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