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Conservative groups sue DOJ for information on attacks on pro-lifers

Conservative groups filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) this week, asking a federal court to compel the agency to release documents on how it handled attacks on churches and organizations pro-life.

Advancing American Freedom and the Heritage Foundation filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, accusing the DOJ of failing to provide them with documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA). The organizations say they want to investigate the “possible failure” of the DOJ “to provide pro-life organizations victimized by crime equal justice under the law,” the lawsuit states. In the complaint it is written:

In recent years, this country has seen a dramatic increase in violence against religious and pro-life organizations. But while the Justice Department has aggressively enforced federal criminal laws to protect “pro-choice” organizations and other organizations espousing the administration’s favored political or political views, all publicly available evidence points to that the ministry’s response to this increased violence against religious and pro-life organizations has been anemic at best.

The organizations requested internal DOJ communications about crimes or investigations of crimes against pro-life organizations, communications between the DOJ and the Domestic Policy Council or the President’s Executive Office about those investigations, and any other records related to communications between the DOJ and any other entities about pregnancy resource centers, according to the lawsuit.

The groups – joined by Americans United for Life, CatholicVote, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, Concerned Women for America, The Ethics and Public Policy Center, FaithWins, the Family Research Council, For America, Human Coalition, Keystone Policy, Students for Life Action and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America – submitted their FOIA request on September 30, 2022. On February 26, 2023, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) responded to the request and closed it on the grounds that it do not “contain sufficient descriptive information to permit a search of our records”.

The plaintiffs are asking the federal court to compel the agency to respond to the organizations FOIA request within 20 days of the court order and provide an explanation for any withheld records. The lawsuit also asks the court to prevent the DOJ from assessing any fees or costs related to the plaintiffs’ claim.

According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the DOJ “claimed to have complied with its legal obligations in the way it handled FOIA requests.”

“The DOJ also said its Office of Information Policy informed the coalition that the research could take more than 30 days and provided contact information for a FOIA public liaison officer to assist with the request,” according to the report. report.

“The DOJ further noted that the DOJ provided them with contact information for the Office of Government Information Services, which it said meets the legal requirements for an agency if it cannot produce the documents within the 30 days,” he continues. say.

Mike Howell, the director of the surveillance project and one of the people suing the DOJ, told CNA that “”[Attorney General] Merrick Garland and his top DOJ officials clearly despise us.

“They refuse to prosecute those who viciously attack pro-life organizations simply for their existence and who attempt to coerce and intimidate Supreme Court Justices into governing as the mob desires,” Howell continued. “Meanwhile, they are sending SWAT teams into the homes of pro-life Americans to arrest and prosecute them on trumped up charges.”

Lawsuit comes as churches and pro-life organizations continue to face attacks from pro-abortion extremists following Supreme Court ruling Dobbs decision. FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing in November 2022 that about 70% of threats of abortion-related violence in the United States since the Dobbs ruling was against pro-life groups, although he denied that the FBI and DOJ enforce the law unevenly.

But despite pro-life groups facing more attacks, the DOJ has charged at least 26 pro-life activists in 2022, while only two pro-abortion activists appear to have faced the same treatment. Confronted with those numbers during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland admitted the DOJ prosecuted more pro-life activists than pro-extremists. -abortion following Supreme Court decision. Dobbs decision, and blamed the timing of the alleged crimes for the discrepancy.

“I will say, you are absolutely right: there are a lot more lawsuits concerning the blocking of abortion centres. But it’s usually because those actions are taken with photography at the time, in daylight, and seeing the person who did it is pretty easy,” Garland told Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT ). He continued:

Those who attack pregnancy resource centers, which is a horrible thing to do, do it at night, in the dark. We have devoted all our resources to it. We have set rewards for this. The Justice Department and the FBI have contacted Catholic and other organizations asking for their help in identifying people doing this.

According to CatholicVote, at least 83 pregnancy centers and pro-life groups have been attacked since the Dobbs decision was disclosed, along with 141 Catholic churches.

The case is Advancing American Freedom v. United States Department of JusticeNo. 23-cv-743 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

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