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Garland Chills Parental Speech

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP

Garland acted with reckless haste to implement the anti-parent agenda demanded by the National School Board Association (NSBA). Without any investigation to establish the validity of NSBA’s claims, he accepted them as valid and issued an immediate order. Garland did so on October 4 just five days after the NSBA insisted that Biden have DOJ and the FBI act against parents protesting Critical Race Theory and mask mandates.


The NSBA letter to Biden asks for parents to be treated like domestic terrorists and be investigated by DOJ and the FBI. In his October 4 memorandum, Garland responded by ordering the DOJ and FBI to coordinate with local law enforcement in all 14,000 public school districts. He ordered DOJ to employ “authority and resources” to identify parents who make “threats” against “school administrators, board members, teachers and staff” and prosecute them “when appropriate.” He thereby marched in near perfect lock step with the substantive demands of the NSBA.

While Garland’s memo recites, superficially, that parents have First Amendment rights to protest, Garland declares parents unprotected if they make “threats” and “intimidate individuals based on their views.” But one person’s “threat” or viewpoint “intimidation” is another person’s strident political protest, and Garland draws no distinctions to guide law enforcement; he purposefully does not limit legal action to criminal assault and battery. Rather, he leaves the “threat” and viewpoint “intimidation” undefined and thus open to investigator and prosecutor interpretation, which in matters of speech predictably leads to actions that chill and censor protected speech.

NSBA’s conclusory assertions of injury come with no proof, yet, in a manner reminiscent of initiation of the Russia probe against President Trump, DOJ proceeds undaunted, with zeal. Neither the NSBA nor Garland offer a single instance of criminal conduct as a basis for action. Neither the NSBA nor Garland recite any legal justification for federal government interference with local law enforcement’s handling of school related matters. Neither the NSBA nor Garland give reasons for Garland’s extraordinary resort to the FBI, the Criminal Division of the DOJ, and the US Attorneys in what is a blatant political dispute--a classic voter exercise of the First Amendment checking power against state-sponsored abuses of children.


Moreover, despite ordering the FBI, DOJ, and US Attorneys to devise a plan to counter the alleged, but unproven, parental “intimidation” and “threats,” Garland does nothing to warn authorities against actions that chill parental speech rights and peaceful protests. That failure is a dereliction of duty because it invites foreseeable abuses. In this way, Attorney General Garland is effectively countenancing a federal campaign against free speech and peaceful protest. The First Amendment significance of the obvious chilling effect stemming from his unrestrained order must have occurred to Garland who, after all, served for 24 years on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and handled many First Amendment cases involving government actions that chilled speech.

Having ordered federal authorities to move against parents, Garland presumes without explanation that arguments against CRT and masking by parents lack legitimacy. He apparently considers those arguments condemnable sub silentio, because he does not clarify in his memo any that he would protect. For its part, the NSBA disingenuously denies that CRT is present in schools, contrary to direct evidence from across the country.

Garland’s memo predictably casts a pall of censorship over protected parental speech. That appears to be the plain purpose of his federal initiative. He is abusing the authority of his office, employing it as an instrument of censorship—a patently unconstitutional enterprise.

Garland’s insistence on full DOJ authority against what is a phantom, the fiction of widespread parent assaults on educators and school administrators, is in stark contrast to his utter refusal to arrest and prosecute actual violence by BLM and Antifa activists across state lines against private property, government property, and innocent people. In the BLM/Antifa violence context Garland views the matter as a local policing issue, despite overwhelming proof of interstate coordination of violent criminal acts. Once again the indispensable foundation of just governance, equal justice under law, has given way to the woke politics of the Biden administration wherein harsh “justice” is reserved for the politically disfavored and lenient “justice” is dispensed to the politically preferred.


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