CV NEWS FEED // Since a large SWAT team arrested a pro-life Catholic leader at his Pennsylvania home on Friday, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice and FBI have been facing a growing backlash from lawmakers, journalists, and Catholic bishops.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, stated Monday that “you have a lot to answer for” if the reports about the arrest are true:
Not only did your office turn a local dispute into a national case, but the FBI reportedly executed the search warrant in as extreme a manner as one can imagine. Reports state that the FBI sent as many as 20 to 25 agents to conduct the arrest. And the FBI allegedly arrest Houck at gunpoint early in the morning in front of his seven children. The FBI admitted, in a statement, that as many as 20 agents were present with their guns drawn. As Houck’s wife said, when they saw 20 or more agents arrest their father at gunpoint, “the kids were all just screaming.”
Hawley went on to point out that the arrest was “especially shocking given that your office has so far turned a blind eye to the epidemic of violence across the country by pro-abortion extremists against pregnancy resource centers, houses of worship, and pro-life Americans – violent acts that are prohibited by the very same law under which you are charging Mark Houck.”
“I believe you [Garland] must testify, under oath, before the Senate Judiciary Committee about your selective use and apparent political weaponization of the FACE Act,” Hawley wrote.
“I want to know from Merrick Garland directly why Biden’s DOJ is arresting Catholic protestors like terrorists – complete with SWAT-style tactics – while letting actual terrorist acts like firebombings go unpunished,” Hawley tweeted:
The corruption & abuse of law is out of control. Come January, the new Republican Congress must launch a thorough, public investigation of DOJ & the FBI – from their targeting of parents to religious protestors to political opponents. What Biden is doing is wrong. And dangerous.
At least 73 pregnancy resource centers and offices of pro-life groups have been attacked and vandalized since May, according to one of CatholicVote’s violence trackers (which can be found here). Attacks have included firebombings and other forms of property destruction, and the CatholicVote tracker does not include numerous additional violent threats and other examples of intimidation by pro-abortion terrorist groups.
Houck Maintains Innocence
Houck is charged with allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act (a felony charge), shoving a 72-year-old “patient escort” outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood where Houck regularly prays and offers sidewalk counseling to women in crisis pregnancies.
The Biden administration is under scrutiny regarding those charges, however, for a number of reasons.
First, the arrest itself was highly dramatic and did not seem to match the nature of the charges. A large group of armed and armored agents stormed the Houck home just after 7:00am on Friday, according to Houck’s wife, who added that her husband was taken away at gunpoint in front of his seven children. Mrs. Houck has told members of the media that she immediately contacted therapists to speak with the children, who were reportedly hysterical with fear over what they had witnessed.
Second, the alleged incident involving Houck shoving the abortion worker took place nearly a year ago.
“In September 2021, Houck was involved in an incident outside a Philadelphia abortion business where a pro-abortion clinic escort had repeatedly bullied and intimidated his 12-year-old son who was with him to help sidewalk counsel and encourage women to choose pro-life alternatives,” reported Steven Ertelt of LifeNews:
After multiple verbal assaults and the abortion activist getting into his son’s face, Houck pushed him away and he fell.
Houck, who regularly prays the rosary outside the clinic, maintains he was defending his 12-year-old son from the escort’s verbal harassment, a family spokesman, Brian Middleton, told CNA. The man fell when Houck pushed him away, Middleton said. The incident was so minor that charges were never pressed and a court ultimately dismissed a complaint the abortion activist filed.
Sen. Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, Rep. Chip Roy, R-TX, and other lawmakers have pointed out Houck’s claim that he is innocent and was only defending his minor son from aggressive harassment on the part of the “patient escort.”
“Even if it wasn’t justified—and by all accounts it was—it’s a minor physical altercation (the indictment says ‘requiring medical attention,’ which probably means a band-aid),” stated CatholicVote President Brian Burch on Monday. “The fact that the DOJ is involved in any way, shape, or form is insane. This is essentially an announcement from the administration: we are now openly weaponizing the law to target political enemies.”
Third, Houck’s legal counsel informed law enforcement well before the date of the dramatic arrest that he would willingly turn himself in – leading many to speculate that Friday’s show of force at the pro-life dad’s home was a gratuitous exercise it teaching a lesson to political enemies of the pro-abortion administration.
Again, from LifeNews:
In June 2022, Thomas More Society attorneys notified the Biden Department of Justice that the FACE Act does not cover one-on-one altercations like the one involving Houck, which was initiated by the abortion proponent who was harassing Houck’s son. The Department of Justice was also advised that if the decision was made to bring a charge against Houck despite lack of legal foundation, Houck would appear voluntarily.
“Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending twenty heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” said Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen, who is representing Houck. “In threatening form, after nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark’s head and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children, who were terrified that their husband and father would be shot dead before their eyes.”
“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and pro-life Americans,” Breen said. “Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court.”
Numerous Catholic leaders, including Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, TX, agree. “The description of this arrest sounds like it took place in a totalitarian state. A tragic unraveling of Justice in America,” tweeted Strickland on Monday. “We must stand with men like Mark Houck who is willing to ‘hear the word of God & act on it’. Sadly this bravery is rare today. Mark is simply leading his family in respecting God’s law regarding the sanctity of life. To arrest him with a SWAT team is a sad act against truth.”
Houck will appear in federal court in Philadelphia at 1:30pm today (September 27).