The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has much to answer for in their recent arrest of pro-life leader Mark Houck. His September 23 arrest calls into question the objectivity of the bureau’s administration of justice, ideological neutrality, and its mission to “protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.”
On October 23, 2021, Mark Houck, a pro-life leader, was sidewalk counseling outside of a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood, something he has done without incident for several years. On that day, 72-year-old abortion escort Bruce Love engaged in a verbal altercation with Houck’s then-12-year-old son. The specifics of the exchange are not clear but are said to include Love saying “obscene” things to Houck’s son.
The exchange escalated when Houck shoved Love to the ground. Police were called to the scene but pressed no charges due to an apparent lack of evidence of the actual assault, although police reportedly said that Love sustained a scratch on his arm. Days later, Love pressed charges against Houck, but the charges were eventually dropped due to Love not attending the court proceedings, according to CBN News.
Soon after that, the DOJ contacted Houck, informing him that he was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation and would be charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
Interestingly, Houck is not necessarily being charged with assault. Assault in and of itself does not violate the FACE Act unless it carries the intent to prevent an individual from accessing an abortion clinic or other establishments listed in the FACE Act.
Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society, the firm defending Houck, intends to prove that Houck is not guilty of the charges levied against him, saying,
“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and pro-life Americans … Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court.”
The FACE Act is a federal law that prohibits anyone from preventing access to abortion clinics, hospitals, or places of worship. Interestingly enough, the DOJ’s website claims that as far as clinics go, the FACE Act applies not only to abortion-providing clinics but also protects “pro-life pregnancy counseling services.”
The specific section of the FACE Act in play here prohibits “the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person who is obtaining an abortion.”
However, as Breen stated, Houck’s actions are far more in line with a one-off incident rather than a measure to restrict access to Planned Parenthood. In fact, according to the FBI, one of the “shoves” took place as Love was leaving the facility.
The Daily Wire’s Megan Basham, who has been covering this story, joined Standing for Freedom Center Editor-in-Chief John Wesley Reid to discuss both the unnecessary measure of using a heavily armed team to arrest Houck and the disproportionate application of justice compared to attacks on the pro-life community.
“This is not somebody who has a criminal history. This isn’t somebody who they would have had any reason to suspect that he wouldn’t have been open to questioning. In fact, he told them that he was open to questioning…so why this early morning raid when it would have been much simpler to treat him like the law-abiding citizen that he is?”
It should be noted that the FBI’s statement on the arrest cordially concludes by stating, “An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Sending 15 to 20 agents with guns drawn is hardly an illustration of a presumption of innocence.
Basham also noted,
“We have had at least 17 fire-bombings, arson attacks, vandalisms against pro-life organizations and institutions [and] crisis pregnancy centers since early May when the Dobbs decisions was leaked. In that time, how many arrests has the DOJ made of people who attacked businesses, pro-life organization, non-profits? The most recent information I was able to access was for September 15, so up to September 15 from early May, they’ve arrested none and yet this show of force for this sidewalk counselor.”
“Even if you think Mark Houck did something wrong, we have an unequal application of justice here, and that’s a real problem. It’s a problem that they seem much more interested in someone like Mark Houck than groups like Jane’s Revenge, the pro-abortion group who are fire-bombing crisis pregnancy centers.”
In June 2022, Thomas More Society contacted the DOJ and stated that, while they believe the charges against Houck are baseless, Houck would voluntarily appear in court if charges were indeed pursued. This raises the question as to why the FBI presented such a strong show of force at Houck’s house, but it also raises the question as to why he was detained at all since it had been made clear that he was voluntarily going to appear in court.
Arrest warrants are routinely served by a pair of local police without guns at the ready. But several testimonies show that the FBI showed up with anywhere from 15 to 30 agents. Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie, who was present with the couple’s seven children at the time of Houck’s arrest, said there was between 25 to 30 agents armed with rifles and that they pointed the rifles at Houck and herself. A senior FBI source told Fox News that the number was more around 15 to 20 and that, while guns were drawn, no guns were pointed at Houck or his family.
For argument’s sake, let’s take the FBI source’s testimony. While certainly less dramatic than Houck’s wife’s account, 15 to 20 agents with guns drawn is a galactically disproportionate show of force to arrest someone who allegedly shoved someone else nearly a year ago — and who has had no other reported offenses before or since.
Moreover, why did they come to Houck’s residence? Again, according to Houck’s attorney, Houck was willing to voluntarily come to court when summoned. Instead, a small cavalry of federal agents arrested him and then, after a short court appearance, released him.
In what world would any law enforcement official send 15-plus armed FBI agents to arrest someone for a crime so petty that the arrestee can be released the same day?
At this point, the truth is unavoidable: Mark Houck is being targeted and a terrible precedent of state power is being set. Houck did not deserve this treatment. Houck’s record shows a righteous man who founded an organization called The King’s Men to advance pro-life, anti-porn, pro-family, pro-prayer, and humble values in society.
One of the easiest ways to check the tyrannical growth of state power and to make a change is to vote. Go to the polls and vote for candidates who will not weaponize the FBI against the very people it swears to protect and who will not react to a landmark judicial decision by using law enforcement agents against people with opposing ideologies.
This is not a call to vote for a particular party, as God knows each has their issues. So do your homework, know where the various candidates stand on this issue, and then go vote.
Vote for justice. Vote for righteousness. Vote for freedom of conscience.
But no matter what, get out and vote — with pragmatic principle.
Follow John on Twitter! @JohnWesleyReid
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.