COMMENTARY: Department of Justice is hardly about justice

President Joe Biden's Department of Justice is going after conservatives in a way eerily reminiscent of the tactics employed when the state of Alabama went after the NAACP in the 1950s.

In 1956, Alabama did not pass a law to shutter the civil rights group; it simply asked for the group's membership rolls -- and figured fate could take care of the rest.

Instead, the NAACP went to court to fight the law, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the NAACP's favor. The court understood that forcing the members to forfeit their anonymity was a threat to their free speech rights.

It's a lesson today's DOJ apparently forgot.

The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama is going after the conservative Eagle Forum of Alabama because the group supported an Alabama law to prohibit gender-altering medical treatment for minors.

To many, it might seem the measure, which went into effect in May, went too far -- by barring parental involvement in such decisions. That's my instinct. And if the DOJ went to court to fight the new Alabama law's constitutionality, that would be great.

But that's not what is happening in a case that has attracted precious little media attention.

Rather than simply fight against the Alabama anti-transgender law on its legal merits, the DOJ has commanded Eagle Forum to deliver reams of its proprietary documentation because, "Several public statements suggest that Eagle Forum of Alabama staff may have had some involvement in drafting (SB184) or its predecessor bills."

Be it noted, the feds aren't even arguing the Eagle Forum drafted parts of the measure -- which it has a right to do -- but it "might have had some involvement."

Why should you care?

Eagle Forum President Kristen A. Ullman sees "no legitimate reason" for the DOJ to subpoena her organization.

If this administration can command that advocacy groups hand over their internal communications to the government, it's not going to end with Eagle Forum. It will be open season on conservative donors and advocates, while a precedent to harass and intimidate activists of all stripes takes root.

You're a liberal and don't care what happens to conservative groups? OK, but with a new president from a different party, the same rules could apply.

The DOJ move is especially troubling because, an amicus brief sympathetic to Eagle Forum noted, it forces "a small nonprofit with only one full-time employee to pony up resources to fight the Department of Justice, the world's largest law firm."

This isn't law enforcement. It's harassment.

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at [email protected].