Monday 4 March 2024

New Spending Bill Would Bar Justice Department From Targeting Churches

 A new congressional spending bill would prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) from going after churches over their beliefs.

Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, who is also the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, published the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 over the weekend in a compromise with the Senate over a funding package for the budget, which lawmakers have failed to pass since September. If passed, the bill would prevent the DOJ from “investigating or prosecuting” churches because of their religious beliefs, a topic that has come under serious scrutiny in recent months.

The DOJ was heavily criticized after a since-retracted memo was made public in February 2023, showing that the FBI’s Richmond field office had called traditionalist Roman Catholics “radical” and claimed they espoused “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology.” The House Weaponization Committee conducted an investigation and determined in a report released in December the agency had “singled out” Catholic Americans largely due to their pro-life beliefs.

The FBI has previously argued in statements to the Daily Caller News Foundation that insinuations that the agency targets Catholics are “false.” The committee’s report, however, claims that had the memo not been made public it would most likely still be in effect, “violating the religious liberties of millions of Catholic Americans.”

Churches have also seen growing hostility across the United States in recent years, according to a report from the Family Research Council (FRC) published in February. In 2023, the number of attacks against churches, including “vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats,” reached 436, over double the previous year’s numbers.

“There is a common connection between the growing religious persecution abroad and the rapidly increasing hostility toward churches here at home: our government’s policies,” Tony Perkins, president of FRC and the former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in a press release. “The indifference abroad to the fundamental freedom of religion is rivaled only by the increasing antagonism toward the moral absolutes taught by Bible-believing churches here in the U.S., which is fomenting this environment of hostility toward churches.”

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