Our nation’s charter, the Declaration of Independence, begins with the recognition that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Although no effort to set out a complete list of those rights is made in that document, three rights are specifically identified: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration explains that it is “to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men….” Thus, the lawyers at the U.S. Department of Justice work for a government that was formed to secure the right to life, but now they have come to act as the enforcement arm of the abortion industry. Not only do these government prosecutors show no respect whatsoever for the Right to Life, they are conducting a shameful war against Life and those who seek to defend it.
At 6:45 on the morning of September 23, 2022, pro-life activist Mark Houck, a father of seven, awakened to a hammering on his door. When he opened it, he saw 10-15 marked and unmarked cars, and five federal agents with assault rifles. “They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open [the door]. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids,” recalled Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie. “Okay, I’m gonna open the door. Stay calm. I have seven babies in here,” Houck urged the agents. “The kids were all just screaming. It was all just very scary and traumatic,” Ryan-Marie said.
Houck was arrested at gunpoint. When Houck’s wife asked for the arrest warrant, “We’re taking him with or without a warrant.” Houck was “shackled at the waist and feet once he arrived at ‘the federal building.’”
The raid occurred despite Houck’s attorney, former federal prosecutor Matt Heffron, having offered U.S. Attorney Anita Eve: “[i]f the government decides to go forward…I will accept a summons on my client’s behalf, rather put Mr. Houck and his family through needless disruption.” But the federal prosecutors wanted disruption. They wanted to put Mr. Houck and his family through the terror of an early morning raid. And even more importantly, they wanted to use the Houck raid to instill fear into the hearts of pro-life activists.
The lawyers at the Justice Department charged Houck with violating the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act” (FACE), which was introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and then-Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. In the Senate, 17 Republicans voted for this vague and dangerous bill, including current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
What terrible conduct must Houck have engaged in to deserve the type of treatment formerly reserved for drug kingpins and members of organized crime? In court, 14-year-old Mark Houck, Jr. testified of the events for which his dad was charged. Abortion clinic escort Bruce Love repeatedly harassed Mark, Jr., as he and his father peacefully protested outside a Philadelphia abortion “clinic,” telling him, “Your dad’s a bad person and your dad’s harassing women.” Court documents revealed that Love “repeatedly initiated profanity-laced verbal confrontations with Houck and his son, Mark Houck Jr.” At one point, Love tried to provoke Houk by telling the Roman Catholic Houck, “Why don’t you go home and masturbate? Go be with your pedophile priests.” When Love approached Mark, Jr, his father, Mark, Sr. finally shoved him away. For that “assault,” the DOJ raided and prosecuted Houck — almost a full year after the incident occurred.
Twenty-two members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, denouncing the “excessive level of force,” and attacking the DOJ’s “extraordinary overreach for political ends.” Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX), who spearheaded the letter, charged that “Attorney General Merrick Garland oversees an increasingly politicized FBI that seems hell-bent on making examples of average American citizens who don’t align politically with the administration.”
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) also sent a letter to Garland, noting the DOJ’s vast disproportion in enforcement, given that the DOJ “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 Houck was charged.
“Biden’s DOJ…treated Mark like a domestic terrorist because of his faith. This type of intimidation has no place in America,” said Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ).
When Houck’s case went to trial, the jury reached a unanimous “not guilty” verdict. “This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement,” said Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, which defended Houck. “The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”
Houck has announced he would sue the FBI for the abuse he suffered, but the courts have made such suits extraordinarily difficult.
An editorial in the Washington Examiner decried the Biden Justice Department’s “anti-religious bigotry and its willingness to stretch the law to meet its ideological ends.”
The Wall Street Journal denounced Houck’s prosecution as “a case that never should have been brought,” noting that “The FBI’s decision to arrest Mr. Houck as though he were John Dillinger also suggested a political stunt.” Even the trial judge asked the DOJ prosecutor if federal law didn’t “seem to be stretched a little thin here.” The Journal noted that “the raid appeared calculated to send a political message…less than two months before the midterm elections.”
Now that the House Republicans’ newly created “Weaponization Subcommittee” has promised to investigate the DOJ’s out-of-control terror tactics, we shall see if Congress does something more effective than letters and press releases.
But the real lesson of the Houck case is that DOJ prosecutors cannot get convictions unless juries cooperate. In this case, the trial was held in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the jury refused to believe DOJ prosecutors who tried mightily to convict an innocent man. The trials of January 6 defendants in Washington, D.C. courts have almost uniformly shown that D.C. juries seem to hate Donald Trump so much that almost always they will do whatever told to do by Biden prosecutors — hardly the type of “impartial jury” guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. In trials held outside of D.C., results may be very different.
While we can hope that the House Republicans will reign in a weaponized Department of Justice, the hope that is within our control is that the People will realize that prosecutions initiated by the Biden DOJ are often political persecutions, and in such cases, the duty falls on jurors to acquit.