Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland over what he called “especially shocking” reports of the FBI’s raiding the Kintnersville, Pennsylvania home of Catholic pro-life activist Mark Houck, according to a Sept. 26 open letter (pdf).
The Missouri senator wrote to Garland on Monday, accusing the attorney general of allegedly weaponizing federal agents against political opponents. It came after reports saying the FBI sent up to two dozen armed agents to arrest Houck in front of his family in the early morning last Friday, due to a local dispute a year prior. Houck’s wife Ryan-Marie told the online news portal LifeSite News that “the kids were all just screaming” as the agents arrested their father at gunpoint.
“Using this kind of force to make an arrest for a single charge of simple assault is unprecedented,” Hawley said in the letter. “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.”
“The reports are 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,” the senator continued in his two-page letter.
The Justice Department alleges that Houck twice assaulted an abortion clinic escort in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, commonly known as the FACE Act. Houck said it was to protect his 12-year-old son against the man, who had verbally insulted the Houcks, both of whom were then praying outside the Philadelphia clinic. The incident took place in October of last year.
Attorneys for Houck said the man filed a private criminal complaint after both city police and the district attorney declined to file charges. The case was ultimately dismissed. In May, a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed Houck that he was the focus of a federal criminal probe into the incident.
Hawley cited data collected by the Family Research Council, an American evangelical activist group and think-tank, detailing a total of 104 incidents of extremist violence against pregnancy resource centers, churches, and pro-life Americans, including fire-bombings and arsons. All attacks followed the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion on May 3 to overturn a landmark decision legalizing the right to an abortion.
Last Tuesday, an 83-year-old Michigan woman was shot in the shoulder while going door-to-door to canvass her community to discuss an abortion ballot proposal, according to the Right to Life of Michigan.
Despite Hawley’s repeated requests, according to the lawmaker, Garland has not identified a single prosecution the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made in response to the violence against pro-life Americans.
“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 said upon releasing the letter.
“The corruption & abuse of law is out of control,” Hawley said. “Come January, the new Republican Congress must launch a thorough, public investigation of [the] DOJ & the FBI,” he added.
The FBI has disputed the Houck family’s account of the raid, saying “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 agency’s Philadelphia office told The Epoch Times.
“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence,” its statement reads.
Houck faces the possibility of 11 years in prison if convicted.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.