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Republicans urge DOJ to investigate cyberattacks on pro-life websites

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A pedestrian walks past a seal reading "Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation," displayed on the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building, in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 15, 2022. |

House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to investigate cyberattacks on pro-life websites as the national discourse surrounding the issue of abortion grows increasingly heated following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling determining that the U.S. Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. 

Thirteen Republican members of the House Oversight Committee wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland Wednesday expressing concern about “recent cyberattacks on Christian websites and charitable donation portals carried out due to their support of conservative values and causes.” They inquired about “the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) efforts to enforce federal law related to these politically-motivated cyberattacks intended to chill the speech of religious and conservative Americans.”

“Hackers recently infiltrated websites connected to Christian organizations supporting the pro-life movement, stealing and then leaking vast quantities of data maintained by those organizations,” the lawmakers said. 

The letter cited a news article reporting on the illegal hacking and publication of the pro-life Christian legal organization Liberty Counsel’s list of donors shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that triggered the rage of abortion supporters.

“We decided to bring about some much needed radical transparency by taking it upon ourselves to make your list of donors public,” the criminal hackers wrote in a message quoted in the letter that also revealed the hacking of the Texas Republican Party’s website, which occurred shortly after the state’s six-week abortion ban went into effect in September 2021, and the hacking of the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo in February 2022.

Congressional lawmakers stressed that these cyberattacks are illegal and a violation of federal law. They maintained that the cyberattacks were “clearly intended to chill the right of our citizens to peacefully express their opinions on matters of public importance as well as donations to conservative or religious organizations.” 

“Citizens in this country should be free to exercise their rights without fear of malicious cyberattacks,” they added. The lawmakers asked the DOJ to “provide a briefing to the Committee no later than Oct. 5” to illustrate what the federal government was “doing to address politically-motivated cyberattacks intended to silence supporters of conservative causes.”

The request for the DOJ to investigate cyberattacks on pro-life websites comes after many faith-based advocacy groups have expressed discontent with the federal government’s response to attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches dating back to the May 2 publication of a leaked draft of the Dobbs opinion by Politico.

While the FBI previously announced that it was investigating attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers as potential acts of domestic extremism, critics believe the Biden administration is not doing enough to deter them. Last month, the group CatholicVote launched a $1 million ad campaign slamming the Biden administration for failing to condemn what they viewed as direct attacks on Catholicism.

Many Catholic churches have found themselves subject to varying degrees of vandalism in recent weeks and months, as have pro-life pregnancy centers affiliated with Catholic organizations. CatholicVote was one of several pro-life and conservative organizations that called on the DOJ to take legal action against perpetrators of the violence against pro-life pregnancy centers and churches in a June 20 letter expressing concern about the “relative silence from the Administration.” 

The letter to the DOJ comes as the agency faces criticism for its arrest of a pro-life activist in an early-morning raid for purportedly violating a federal law prohibiting interference with the “provision of reproductive health services” while praying in front of a Philadelphia abortion clinic last year. 

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights suggested that the raid demonstrates a double standard on the part of the Biden administration when it comes to enforcing the law, based on whether or not a person or organization supports abortion.

“There seems to be much interest in pursuing alleged wrongdoing by pro-life activists, yet little interest in pursuing alleged wrongdoing by abortion-rights activists,” Donohue wrote in a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. “This kind of overreaction to a minor infraction of the law is deeply troubling, and it becomes even more troubling when paired with the underreaction by the Department of Justice when the pro-life side is targeted.” 

CatholicVote CEO Brian Burch offered a similar analysis in a statement shared with The Christian Post. “The Department of Justice has made clear that partisan political ideology is now driving its decision making, not equal justice under the law,” he said.

“Our chief federal law enforcement agencies have utterly failed to protect the safety and integrity of Catholic churches, pregnancy resource centers, and even the private homes of Supreme Court justices. Instead, the Department has weaponized its agents to intimidate and pursue pro-life religious Americans.” 

Burch said CatholicVote has "repeatedly called on the DOJ and FBI to protect religious institutions and innocent pro-life advocates from pro-abortion domestic terrorism. These pleas have been ignored, as more than 150 attacks on Catholic Churches and pro-life organizations – just since May – have gone unanswered.” 

Although pro-life advocates have directed their ire at the Biden administration for what they view as an inadequate response to the violence against pro-life pregnancy centers and churches, members of Congress have also faced pushback for their rhetoric about pro-life pregnancy centers. Specifically, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has emerged as a staunch critic of such organizations, demanding that they be shut down and likening them to a form of “torture.” 

While the U.S. House of Representatives sought to pass a resolution condemning the violence against churches and pro-life pregnancy centers, it failed due to opposition from House Democrats. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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