Federal Judge Allows Attorney General to Target Parents as “Domestic Terrorists”; Parents Appeal

(Washington, D.C. – September 26, 2022).  Late last Friday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. dismissed on “standing” grounds a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Attorney General Merrick Garland by the American Freedom Law Center (“AFLC”).

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of parents and a parent organization, challenging the Attorney General’s policy of targeting as “domestic terrorists” parents who oppose the radical agenda of left-wing school boards.

Rather than address the merits of the parents’ claims—parents who were the very targets of the Attorney General’s policy—the federal judge dismissed the lawsuit based on “standing,” ruling that the parents cannot show that they were “injured” by the AG’s actions.

Elicia Brand, a Loudon County parent and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, reacted to the adverse decision, stating,

“We need to stand up for everyday Americans . . . and [compel] the courts to do right by The People and end the weaponization of the Justice Department against innocent citizens. . . .  We have to do what we can to make the people wake up and understand that they can be next.  We, parents, are the closest thing to them.  We must continue [this legal battle].”

Joe Mobley, another Loudon County parent and plaintiff in the lawsuit, stressed the need to “push forward” with this lawsuit.

“This [decision dismissing the case on ‘standing’ grounds] is just another tactic of the radical overthrow of our nation—not allowing proper redress for grievances.  This is what they did with the election suits.  What they do with crimes against anyone who rejects Marxism—they simply don’t care to hear the argument. . . .  This is bigger than any one of us.”

On October 4, 2021, Attorney General Garland announced with public fanfare that he was calling upon 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 a harmful and radical left-wing agenda disguised as school curricula.

AFLC filed this lawsuit on October 19th in response to this Orwellian attack on the right to free speech.

Since the original filing, additional disturbing facts had come to light.  For example, the parents learned that the Attorney General relied exclusively on the propaganda letter drafted by “progressive” members of the National School Boards Association (“NSBA”), which labeled the parents as “domestic terrorists.”  This letter served as the genesis for the Attorney General’s new policy.

The parents also learned that this letter, which was factually inaccurate, was actually orchestrated by the Biden Administration in order to create the pretext for the Attorney General’s policy.

It also came to light that the FBI created a “threat tag” to aid in tracking and investigating parents who the Attorney General and his “progressive” allies consider a threat to school board officials.  An October 20, 2021 internal email from the FBI’s criminal and counterterrorism divisions instructed agents to apply the threat tag “EDUOFFICIALS” to all investigations and assessments of alleged “threats” directed specifically at education officials.

This email also directs FBI agents to consider whether the activity being investigated violates federal law and what the potential “motivation” is behind it, demonstrating that the government will consider the viewpoints (i.e., “motivation”) of those it is investigating as part of the Attorney General’s policy.

And since AFLC filed the original action, reports surfaced that federal agents have been present at school board meetings.  In fact, it was reported that on October 21, 2021, federal agents in marked and unmarked vehicles were present at a school board meeting held in Fairfax, Virginia, causing further fear, intimidation, and a chilling effect on the free speech rights of parents and other concerned citizens who want to speak out against “progressive” school board policies.

As a result of these new and additional facts, AFLC filed a First Amended Complaint on January 17, 2022.  This amended pleading makes clear the relief that the parents are seeking in this lawsuit.  As stated in the First Amended Complaint:

“A judicial determination that the AG Policy violates the Constitution and federal statutory law as set forth in this First Amended Complaint would reassure Plaintiffs (as well as other similarly situated parents and concerned citizens) that they can freely participate in their constitutionally protected activities without being denigrated and labeled as a criminal threat or domestic terrorist by the government, appearing in government records as criminal threats or domestic terrorists, or being threatened by the government with investigation because their constitutionally protected activity is deemed threatening, harassing, or intimidating simply because public officials oppose the content and viewpoint of Plaintiffs’ message.”

In the lawsuit, the parents allege that the Attorney General’s policy violates the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which is a common “first move” in civil litigation.  In responding to this motion, AFLC argued the following:

“The AG’s response to the First Amended Complaint, by way of his motion to dismiss, is in large measure an argument about which alleged facts this Court should ignore or dismiss and which reasonable inferences, among competing inferences, this Court should draw.  In other words, the AG invites the Court to ignore the relevant procedural standards governing the current motion.  This invitation is patently improper.  Indeed, the AG wants this Court to treat the alleged facts (and only certain alleged facts, as he ignores others) as individual allegations that don’t fit together as a mosaic.  Thus, as the AG presents his version of the facts to this Court, he addresses each one separately, ignores or rewrites them when they are inconvenient, inserts facts that do not exist, and downplays each fact separately and out of context.  In this way, the AG asks the Court to look at each tile separately and to ignore the mosaic they create.  This is an invitation for error.  The facts, taken together, present a “plausible” narrative of a rogue policy designed to intimidate and silence parent protestors at school board meetings, including Plaintiffs.  And while the AG may be operating on facts in a parallel universe, the Court must decide this motion as set forth in the universe of facts provided by Plaintiffs.  Accordingly, Plaintiffs urge the Court to follow the legal standards applicable to a motion to dismiss—accepting all the factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs’ claims.  We believe that if this exercise is carried out with a detached objectivity, the Court will deny the AG’s motion.”  [you can read the entire response here]

Unfortunately, the court did not follow the proper legal standard applicable to this motion.  Instead, the court cherry-picked facts, credited the Attorney General’s version of the facts, and granted all reasonable inferences in the Attorney General’s favor.  This is patently improper.  As a result, the parents have appealed the court’s decision.

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise, who is the lead attorney in this case, commented:

“Unfortunately, as we are witnessing on a near daily basis, the FBI has become a political police force for the progressive left.  Attorney General Garland has weaponized the DOJ and is using the FBI to attack opponents of the leftist, progressive agenda.  We are living in a tyrannical police state.  It is going to take courageous parents and other concerned citizens to stop this destruction of our Republic.  Thankfully, the parents standing up in this lawsuit possess that courage.  And it is going to take leaders and government officials, including judges, with courage to stop this destruction of our Constitution.  This court battle will continue because it must.”

Muise added:

“The thuggery of the DOJ was recently on full display when FBI agents raided the home of a pro-life speaker and dragged him away in front of his terrified and crying young children and wife.  Despicable.  [You can read that story here.]  This clearly makes the success of our case an imperative.”