‘Most Grievous Crisis I Have Ever Seen’: Biden DOJ Motives Questioned During FACE Act Hearing
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a subcommittee hearing to address the federal government’s lack of prosecution of perpetrators of the dozens of attacks that have taken place against pregnancy resource centers and churches in the wake of the leaked Dobbs Supreme Court decision last May, despite statutory authority to do so under the FACE Act, as well as the targeting of pro-life activists.
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act (1994) made it a federal crime to obstruct the entrance to an abortion facility. But as noted by Family Research Council’s Arielle Del Turco during her testimony before the subcommittee, the FACE Act also provided that “whoever … by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship … or intentionally damages or destroys the property of a place of religious worship” would be subject to federal prosecution.
Del Turco went on to testify that there were “565 attacks against churches from January 2018 to April 2023,” and that this year “will be on track to have the highest number of church attacks over the past six years.” The types of attacks committed included “vandalism, arson, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, and interruption of worship services — all of which are punishable under the FACE Act.”
An additional 87 attacks have been catalogued against pregnancy resource centers and pro-life groups since the Dobbs leak last May. However, as noted by subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), “The Biden administration has rarely enforced this statute to protect these organizations that are covered. … The Justice Department to date has brought only four indictments against pro-abortion activists, all of which were related to a single ‘Jane’s Revenge’ attack in Florida.”
Johnson further asserted that there appears to be two-tiered system of justice being enforced by the Biden administration. “While these radical left-wing groups go unpunished, the Justice Department has at the same time unleashed federal law enforcement on pro-life advocates,” he observed.
One such advocate was Mark Houck, who testified about what happened to him last September. The married father of seven and devout Catholic relayed the story of how a minor altercation in October 2021 involving himself, his 12-year-old son, and a pro-abortion escort near a Planned Parenthood facility in Philadelphia led to a dawn raid of his home by up to 20 armed FBI agents in front of his wife and young children almost a year after the incident in question. Despite having previously offered to turn himself in to authorities, and despite local prosecutors declining to take up the case, the Justice Department charged Houck with felony violation of the FACE Act, and he faced up to 11 years in prison. He was later unanimously acquitted of the charges by a jury.
In response to Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) question about why the Justice Department chose to target him, Houck was frank. “The intention was to humiliate me, to scare my children, and to instill fear into pro-life America.”
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) later drilled down on the questionable enforcement priorities that the Biden administration appeared to be engaging in in light of the Constitution. In a fiery exchange with Bishop, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) claimed that the reason Houck was targeted by the Justice Department was because he “was a well-known aggressive participant in demonstrations outside facilities in Philadelphia …”
“Ahh, so they picked him because he was a [pro-life] activist … so they make him a target,” Bishop exclaimed in response. “Let me tell you what that is. That is called selective prosecution in violation of the Constitution. You cannot make prosecutorial decisions because you want to make an example out of somebody who is a ‘well-known’ pro-life activist. You can’t do that. That’s unconstitutional. … [This] deepens the concern about the Justice Department and the FBI. If that is the answer, then … we see institutional corruption. Despite the First Amendment rights of Americans, [we are seeing] politicized prosecutorial activity. … [This is] the most grievous crisis that I have ever seen in this country.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.