Garland Sued For Targeting Parents’ Free Speech Rights

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Attorney General Merrick Garland for his recently announced policy that “effectively” criminalizes public criticism of local school boards by parents.

He’s accused of violating the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The action was brought by the American Freedom Law Center in U.S. District Court in Washington on behalf of a group of parents from Saline, Michigan, and Loudoun County, Virginia.

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AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise said, “The government is without authority to criminalize First Amendment activity that might cause another to feel ‘harassed’ or ‘intimidated,’ even if that is what the speaker intended, absent a showing that the speech itself falls within one of the very narrow, recognized exceptions, such as making a ‘true threat’ or engaging in ‘fighting words’ or ‘incitement’—which is not happening here.”

He continued, “First Amendment freedoms, such as those possessed by the objecting parents and private citizens, are protected not only against heavy-handed frontal attack, but also from being stifled by more subtle government interference. There is no question that the purpose and intended effect of the attorney general’s recent pronouncement is to silence dissenting opinions, in violation of the First Amendment.”

Garland’s recently announced “with some fanfare,” that he was ordering the FBI and federal prosecutors to use “the overwhelming power of the federal government’s criminal justice system to target those parents who dare to publicly criticize the local school boards that are indoctrinating their children with progressive claptrap,” the legal team explained.

The lawsuit itself charges:

In his October 4, 2021, “Memorandum For” Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Director, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys; Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division; and United States Attorneys (all responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal activity), the Attorney General falsely states that “there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.” In his memorandum, the Attorney General gives a meaningless nod to the Constitution, stating, “While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.” Yet, the AG Policy is, in fact, a heavy-handed, direct threat by a powerful government agency designed and intended “to intimidate individuals based on their views.”

The action explains that Garland is stating the DOJ “is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats . . . and other forms of intimidation and harassment” and he created a “snitch line” for comments.

“In short, the AG Policy is a direct threat and warning to parents and private citizens across the United States, including Plaintiffs, that the Department of Justice and its FBI will be investigating you and monitoring what you say at these school board meetings so be careful about what you say and how you say it, thereby chilling such expression,” the lawsuit charges.

It described Garland’s statements as “a one-page screed that rubber-stamps the claims of ‘progressive,’ left-wing activists. It fails to address the Department of Justice’s lack of jurisdiction to intrude on interactions between parents and local school boards in the absence of any federal crime, and it fails to account for the fact that the First Amendment protects political dissent—even dissent that rises to the level of intimidation or harassment.”

The parents are seeking a court order to halt Garland’s use of the power of the federal government “to silence parents and other private citizens who publicly object to and oppose the divisive, harmful, immoral, and racist policies of the ‘progressive’ Left that are being implemented by school boards…”

Specifically cited in the lawsuit are the teachings of Critical Race Theory, which “teaches students to be racists.”

One of the plaintiffs is parent Xi Van Fleet, who “endured Mao’s Cultural Revolution before immigrating to the United States,” the legal team said.

“Based on her experience, the attorney general is using tactics similar to ones she saw Communist China use to stop parents from speaking out, so she is fighting back.”

AFLC Co-Founder David Yerushalmi explained, “AFLC is honored to represent these brave parents who are committed in their stand against the juggernaut that is the progressive movement seeking to dismantle the Constitution and the Republic. Conservative Americans are confronted today with a choice: resist or acquiesce. The Biden administration, the Obama administration before that, and the faceless bureaucrats in our nation’s capital who effectively annulled the Trump administration, are in this fight for keeps and seek a future in which free speech means ‘social justice’ speech and any and all opposition is criminalized ‘hate speech’ or ‘domestic terrorism.’ This is a battle for not just the heart and soul of this country, but its very existence.”

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