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FBI, DOJ face pushback over arrest, prosecution of Catholic pro-life activist

Houck
The Houck family |

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is facing criticism over its early-morning arrest of a pro-life activist, which critics claim is an example of overreach and double standards by federal law enforcement officials.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice released a statement announcing the indictment Mark Houck of Kintnersville, Pennsylvania. He is charged with a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The law subjects any person who "intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person" seeking to "provide reproductive health services" to federal charges. 

The DOJ indicated that "the defendant is alleged to have twice assaulted a man because he was a volunteer reproductive health care clinic escort." The federal agency maintained that "the defendant forcefully shoved" the clinic escort to the ground on two separate occasions at a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic on Oct. 13, 2021, one of which required him to receive "medical attention." 

If convicted, Houck faces up to 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release and up to $350,000 in fines. Court documents reveal that a grand jury agreed with the federal government's analysis of what happened that day and indicted Houck for violating federal law on Tuesday, three days before his arrest. 

A fundraiser for Houck on the crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo tells a slightly different story about what happened on Oct. 13, 2021, suggesting that "Mark's 'crime' was protecting his 12-year-old son from an aggressive Planned Parenthood escort in downtown Philadelphia."

"Last year, Mark and his son were praying in front of the PP at 12th and Locust. When one of the escorts began harassing Mark's son they walked down the street away from the entrance to the building. The escort followed them, and when he continued yelling at Mark's son, Mark pushed him away."

As of Tuesday morning, the fundraiser has raised more than $240,000. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to "help the family with any necessary expenses" as they endure what organizers of the effort characterize as a campaign of "fear and intimidation." The fundraiser also provided additional details about Houck's arrest Friday morning.

"At 7 am on Friday, September 23, 20 SWAT team members burst into the home of Mark Houck," the fundraiser stated.

"These agents had guns drawn and shields up in the faces of Mark, his wife, and their seven young children. Mark was handcuffed in front of his family and arrested."

Ryan-Marie Houck, Houck's wife, elaborated on what happened at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic and the events that unfolded Friday morning in an interview with LifeSite News.

She told the news outlet that the clinic escort directed derogatory language at their then-12-year-old son, including an assertion that "your dad is a fag."

Ryan-Marie Houck reported that when the clinic escort remained in her son's face, her husband "shoved him away from his child, and the guy fell back." She added, "he didn't have any injuries or anything, but he tried to sue Mark."

While the clinic escort's legal challenge against Houck was unsuccessful in the lower courts, the Department of Justice resurrected the case in federal court last week. 

"They started pounding on the door and yelling for us to open it," Ryan-Marie Houck recalled of the FBI's descendence on her home last week.

While her husband informed the agents of his intention to open the door and pleaded with them to quiet down because he had "seven babies in the house," the law enforcement officials "just kept pounding and screaming." She classified the experience as "scary and traumatic," stressing that "the kids were all just screaming."

"I've already reached out to some psychiatrists or psychologists to try and help us through this. I don't really know what's going to come of it when you see guns pointed at your dad and your mom in your house when you wake up." 

In a statement to Fox News, an FBI spokesperson pushed back against the Houcks' depiction of the raid, classifying parts of it as inaccurate.

"There are inaccurate claims being made regarding the arrest of Mark Houck. No SWAT Team or SWAT operators were involved. FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck's front door, identified themselves as FBI agents and asked him to exit the residence," the spokesperson said. "He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment." 

Ryan-Marie Houck stated to LifeSiteNews that when she asked the FBI agents to provide a warrant, they replied that they "were going to take him whether they had a warrant or not." After she protested that "you can't just come to a person's house and kidnap them at gunpoint," they presented the warrant for her husband's arrest to her. 

Houck is the founder and president of The King's Men, which the organization's website describes as a ministry to "build up other men in the mold of leader, protector, and provider through education, formation, healing and action."

A bio on the website notes that Houck, a "passionate Catholic," has "written numerous articles, brochures and publications on the topics of pornography, homosexuality, abortion, teen sexuality, parenting and masculine spirituality." 

The early-morning raid on Houck's home received swift condemnation from leaders in the pro-life movement.

Bill Donohue of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights wrote a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, seeking an investigation into Houck's arrest. Donohue accused the FBI of a double standard when enforcing the law based on whether a person supports or opposes 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 lamented in the letter published 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." 

Donohue reflected on the letters he had previously written to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging investigations into the violence directed at pro-life pregnancy centers and churches following the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court's draft decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The leak revealed a majority of justices were poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Vandalism and firebomings on pro-life organizations continued after the Dobbs decision was released on June 24. 

"Not only did I not receive a response from the attorney general, but there have also been no news stories on SWAT teams crashing the homes of abortion-rights terrorists," he wrote. "Yet there have been many instances of violence that make 'shoving' someone look like child's play." 

Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate in Pennsylvania's upcoming gubernatorial election, condemned Houck's arrest as an example of "the continued weaponization of the FBI and persecution by Joe Biden's DOJ against ordinary Americans." He accused federal law enforcement of going after "political enemies" of President Joe Biden. 

Houck was released from custody Friday on $10,000 bail.

Under the terms of his release, Houck must surrender his passport and firearms and cannot travel outside the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where the federal case against him is taking place unless he is given special permission to do so.

Additionally, he must refrain from protesting and sidewalk counseling at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood where his encounter with the clinic escort took place. 

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a national grassroots advocacy organization that opposes abortion, condemned Houck's arrest as an example of federal law enforcement being used to go after opponents of the Biden administration. 

“The Biden-Harris administration has dangerously politicized the Justice Department to punish political enemies and protect the abortion industry that spends millions to elect pro-abortion Democrats,” said SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“[Vice President] Kamala Harris’ tactic of raiding the homes of journalists who exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in trafficking baby body parts is now policy at the highest levels of government. President Biden’s repeated failure to denounce pro-abortion violence by name and characterization of pro-life Americans as ‘threats to democracy’ have consequences — fueling scores of attacks on pregnancy centers, pro-life nonprofits and houses of worship, as well as an assassination attempt against U.S. Supreme Court justices."

Dannenfelser lamented that there have been "no arrests in at least 17 cases of pro-abortion terrorism tied to ‘Jane’s Revenge.'"

“Now a pro-life family has found the guns of the FBI aimed at them and their children at home, pregnancy centers in Michigan and Colorado have been vandalized in recent days, and an elderly pro-life volunteer has been shot in the back while peacefully canvassing," Dannenfelser stated. 

"We join our allies in Congress in demanding a full account from Attorney General Garland of what is being done to investigate and prosecute these attacks, which are unacceptable in a country founded on equal justice under the law.”

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

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