Kennedy, Judiciary Republicans push back on Biden Justice Department crackdown on parents’ freedom of speech
Oct 07 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and nine other senators in demanding that the Justice Department (DOJ) not interfere with local school board meetings or threaten the use of federal law enforcement to deter parents’ free speech. This comes after DOJ issued a memorandum suggesting federal law enforcement may need to assist policing local school board meetings.
“We are concerned about the appearance of the Department of Justice policing the speech of citizens and concerned parents. We urge you to make very clear to the American public that the Department of Justice will not interfere with the rights of parents to come before school boards and speak with educators about their concerns, whether regarding coronavirus-related measures, the teaching of critical race theory in schools, sexually explicit books in schools, or any other topic. Furthermore, we urge you to instruct the FBI and the various United States Attorneys to make clear in the meetings discussed above that speech and democratic processes, like those that occur at a local school board meeting, must be respected,” wrote the senators.
“It is not appropriate to use the awesome powers of the Federal government—including the PATRIOT Act, a statute designed to thwart international terrorism—to quash those who question local school boards. By even suggesting that possibility, important speech by American citizens will be chilled in school board meetings across this country. Your job now is to make clear to all stakeholders and the American people that such action is decidedly not the role of the Federal government nor the role of any other government in the United States—in fact, it can never be,” the senators concluded.
Last month, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden asking for help from federal law enforcement, referencing the PATRIOT Act, a statute that helps the federal government fight international terrorism. NSBA referenced situations involving parents who have been frustrated by COVID-19 mask mandates for children and the possibility of incorporating critical race theory into the academic curriculum. Such discussions are clearly protected under the First Amendment.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed the letter.
The full letter is available here.