Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of “infiltrating churches and spying on Americans.”
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Hawley called for the FBI to be held accountable because of his claims.
‘TREATING CHRISTIANS LIKE CRIMINALS!’: Hawley Unloads on DOJ for Church Spying Scandal [WATCH] https://t.co/2WpCFCelUF
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 12, 2023
“Senator, did the attorney general of the U.S. just lie to you in that exchange?” Hannity asked. “Do we now know that?”
“Sure looks like it, Sean — sure looks like it,” Hawley replied. “Listen, he knew at the time that he couldn’t answer the question because it looks so bad. He knew that it looked beyond the pale, and it is beyond the pale, Sean, for the FBI to be going into any church in America and trying to spy on Americans, and now we know that’s exactly what they were doing,”
“They are infiltrating churches. They are trying to spy on us. They regard churches apparently as the enemy and church-going Americans as akin to terrorists,” Hawley added.
Hawley sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s office, noting that Garland’s recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee conflicts with the House Judiciary Committee’s findings indicating that the FBI is “cultivating sources and spies” in Catholic churches across the U.S.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Hawley criticized Garland over the DOJ’s handling of a case involving Mark Houck, a Catholic anti-abortion activist accused of physically attacking a 72-year-old man that escorted a patient into a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic.
Houck’s home was raided by FBI agents in full riot gear as his wife and children watched. He faced charges of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act but was acquitted in federal court.
“You used an unbelievable show of force with guns that I note liberals usually decry,” Hawley told Garland on Wednesday. “You’re supposed to hate long guns and assault-style weapons but you’re happy to deploy them against Catholics and innocent children,” Hawley told Garland in the hearing.
“And then you haul them into court for a jury to acquit them in one hour. I just suggest to you that that is a disgraceful performance by your justice department and a disgraceful use of resources,” he added.
Garland denied the allegations, saying the DOJ doesn’t target anyone based on political or religious beliefs.
Hawley cited a Jan. 23, 2023, memorandum from the FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia, which suggested “the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development against traditionalist Catholics.”
Garland, however, called the memo “appalling” and reiterated that the DOJ “does not do investigations based on religion.”
Hawley asked Garland how many informants the FBI has in Catholic churches across the U.S., to which Garland replied, “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know, and I don’t believe we have any informants aimed at Catholic churches,” Garland responded. “We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity, and Catholic churches are obviously First Amendment activity. I don’t know the specific answer.”
Hawley recently criticized the DOJ and Democrats for using the indictment of former President Donald Trump as a “demonstration of raw power” to attack their political opponents.