The FBI must be wary about using religious belief as a basis for an investigation, Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax on Monday amid outrage over an FBI memo on a probe into "radical traditionalist" Catholics and their possible ties to "the far-right white nationalist movement."
Appearing on Newsmax's "John Bachman Now," the Harvard law professor noted the FBI "should use every source available to it" but also be "sensitive."
"Even biased sources sometimes can produce relevant information, but it shouldn't be based on any decisions or any memorandum on those sources," Dershowitz said. "And it shouldn't be looking into people based on their religious affiliation … remember, there are Catholics who are radicals and law violators just like there are Jews and Protestants and Muslims who are."
"The focus ought to be on those individuals who have misused their faith for violent purposes, but ought not to be intrusions into church services or religious life. ... The line is a difficult one because you can't use your religion — we know that from Muslim experienced — as an excuse for violence, and it doesn't matter what your religion is.
"The FBI has to be a lot more sensitive about not using a person religious belief in and of itself as a basis for any investigation."
Dershowitz's remarks follow the FBI's Richmond field office's release of an internal document last month published on the website UncoverDC on Feb. 8 titled "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities."
The document singles out Catholics interested in the traditional Latin Mass as potentially linked to violent extremist groups.
The FBI says it's retracting a leaked document, the Catholic News Agency reported
Dershowitz told Newsmax that whenever law enforcement focuses on a political group it disagrees with, there should be concern — "particularly if it represents one part of the political process, rather than both parts of the process."
"The bottom line is, the FBI has to be more sensitive about religious rights, about political rights," Dershowitz said. "It has to not only be absolutely fair and just and equal, but it must be seen that way. It begins to lose its credibility when people see memos like this.
"Even if ... you can explain it on the basis of the FBI's right to prevent violence, it has to be much more careful about what language it uses and make sure that it always says that the First Amendment comes first and that you always err on the side of freedom, and you always err on the side of making sure that you don't focus on people based on their religious and political affiliations."
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