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GOP Rep. Demands Biden DOJ Apologize to Local Pro-Lifer Mark Houck

During a passionate exchange before the House Judiciary Committee, Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy confronted the Biden Department of Justice over its treatment of Bucks County pro-life activist Mark Houck and demanded an apology.

Houck and his family were terrified when a team of armed federal agents swarmed his home early on a Saturday morning and arrested him for allegedly violating the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. It took a Philadelphia jury just a few hours to acquit Houck on all charges. The Biden administration has never explained why it reopened a case abandoned by local prosecutors or why it used such an overwhelming display of force to arrest a father of seven with no criminal record.

While questioning Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Tuesday, Roy confronted her over the federal government’s treatment of Houck.

“Mark Houck, who was targeted, had a raid of his home, prosecuted under this, was acquitted by a jury,” Roy said. “Have you apologized to him on behalf of the Department of Justice for that grave violation of his civil rights, having his family have to watch him being raided at his home? And then he’s acquitted by a federal jury. Have you apologized to him?”

Clarke said, “We follow the stats and follow the law. That’s our job. We welcome the opportunity to engage with other pro-life groups that may be experiencing threats or acts of violence.”

“So the answer is ‘no,’” Roy snapped.

Houck’s story has become a cause celebre among critics who believe the Biden Justice Department has targeted Americans with conservative politics or traditional cultural beliefs. They point to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s directive that the FBI view parents protesting school board actions as potentially dangerous and an FBI probe into “radical” traditional Catholics.

Now, the Washington Examiner reports the Biden administration has “ramped up” its enforcement actions under the umbrella of the FACE Act. The report said the DOJ has brought “at least 15 criminal cases under the FACE Act involving approximately 46 anti-abortion defendants since January 2021, according to federal data and court records. The victims in all but one of those cases were abortion-rights supporters.”

Houck is suing the DOJ for wrongful prosecution.

DVJournal asked Houck, who is challenging Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) in the 2024 GOP primary, to comment on the exchange between Roy and the DOJ official.

“Of course, I don’t expect an apology,” said Houck. “She’s probably the person in charge of the Civil Rights Division in the DOJ that made the decision to raid my home. That’s probably where the final say came from. So I wouldn’t expect her to apologize for anything, for the decision she made.”

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Bucks County Pro-Life Activist Houck Sues DOJ for Wrongful Prosecution

On September 23, 2022, pro-life activist Mark Houck and his family were awakened by armed federal agents banging on the door of their house. They were there to arrest Houck on a questionable case related to an incident outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic.

Now, Houck is trying to send the federal government a message. He is suing the Department of Justice for selective prosecution.

Houck, a Bucks County pro-life activist, was acquitted by a jury of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act earlier this year. He is suing the Biden administration for $1.1 million. His wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, is also suing for $3.25 million for herself and their seven children. The claim says they have suffered stress-related health problems.

Houck is challenging U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) in the GOP primary, and he is using his experience with what he says is an overreaching federal government as a central part of his campaign.

The FBI’s treatment of Houck has raised disturbing questions about a Department of Justice already widely viewed to be politically motivated.

Although Houck’s criminal defense lawyer had offered to turn him in if a grand jury indicted him, around 20 FBI agents and other officers raided his house with guns drawn in the early morning of Sept. 23, 2022. They carried rifles and battering rams and wore armored vests, helmets, and shields.

Although Houck, who had been making breakfast in his pajamas, came out on the porch of his Kintnerville home with his hands up, surrendering peacefully, agents kept guns pointed at him and then his wife, who came out to see what was going on. The children followed and stood on the inside stairs, crying and screaming in terror.

“The entire family was located directly downrange,” the court filing noted. “This egregious show of force was both unnecessary and unlawful. Mr. Houck is a peaceful man who is innocent of the non-violent federal charges against him…(He) had no firearms of any kind in the house or on his property and had none registered.”

Mark and Ryan-Marie Houck and their children

The FBI handcuffed and shackled Houck and kept him incommunicado chained to a desk for six hours before he was released on his own recognizance. The filing said the FBI deprived Houck of his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force. The claim cited the bureau’s “tortious conduct, its faulty investigation leading to malicious and retaliatory prosecution, and its egregious and excessive force.”

Houck has been a pro-life sidewalk counselor for decades and is not a protester, as authorities claimed. His interactions with a Planned Parenthood volunteer were to protect his 12-year-old son, whom the volunteer was heckling, the claim said. Houck shoved the volunteer away from his son, and the man fell but was not seriously injured. Local authorities did not prosecute Houck.

The DOJ’s website shows 20 prosecutions of pro-life defendants and one of a pro-choice defendant. Although the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects crisis pregnancy centers, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Kristen Clarke, said in her prior position that crisis pregnancy centers were “fake clinics,” the filing said.

Her superior, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, also attacked crisis pregnancy centers and, in 2020, criticized a judicial nominee for serving as president and legal counsel for one. After the Dobbs decision that overturned R0e vs. Wade, she formed a Reproductive Rights Task Force. Two months later, the FBI arrested Houck.

“We’re the face of the weaponization of the government, right?” Houck told DVJournal. “Because it is absurd they would not take the offer to come in (to be arrested). Instead, authorities wanted to “terrorize American citizens and violate their constitutional rights. It’s just off the rails, for sure.”

The filing claims the FBI and federal prosecutor misled the grand jury to obtain an indictment against Houck. Press releases that damage Houck’s reputation remain on the DOJ’s website, the filing noted.

Although Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent, Houck told DVJournal that is not why he is running against the incumbent Republican. He believes Fitzpatrick, who has backed some pro-life legislation, is not a reliable pro-life vote. And, “probably the most important thing for the district is all the taxpayer money that he uses to fund proxy wars and to fund the Democratic Biden administration agenda,” a reference to Ukraine’s war against Russian invaders.

Fitzpatrick is a co-chair of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus.

“[Fitzpatrick] prides himself that he’s across the aisle, and look, he votes with them most of the time,” said Houck. “He’s got a 17 percent rating from the John Birch Society for not voting with the Constitution… He’s more aligned with the Democrats than the Republicans, for sure.”

Houck has been attending various events in the district, meeting people, and listening to their concerns. He said they all want to hear the story of his arrest and trial. He also continues his mission of sidewalk counseling for pregnant women.

“I’ve been there every Wednesday since I was acquitted,” said Houck, who received a Hero Award from Catholic Voter in November.

Houck has raised nearly $100,000 so far and says he will need at least $500,000 to compete with Fitzpatrick in the April 23 primary. Houck said Fitzpatrick has a nearly $3 million war chest but will need to save some of it for the general election if he wins the primary.

The DOJ declined to comment on the litigation that was filed by Kansas City firm Graves Garrett.

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Lower Moreland Pastor Helps Persecuted Christians Abroad

The Rev. Dr. William “PB” Devlin has gotten a lot of ink over the years.

Maybe that is because Devlin, who turns 71 this month, has led an amazing life. One article called him “the Indiana Jones of Jesus,” which is apt since he travels to areas of war and conflict to help those who need care: Yazidis and Christians in Gaza and Nigeria for his nonprofit Widows and Orphans.

“God is my safety and protection,” he said, adding he was not afraid when he travels to dangerous places.

Next, he heads to communist Cuba to hold a Jesus Youth Festival for hundreds of teenagers for his other nonprofit, REDEEM! He has held more than 500 events in Cuba since 2007, all with permission of that country’s government.

“This, of course, drives the U.S. State Department crazy,” he said.

Devlin and his wife, Nancy, now Lower Moreland residents, agreed to “live simply so that others may simply live” after talking to an older Mennonite couple when they were engaged. They are the parents of five adult children and have 11 grandchildren.

Pastor Devlin with a Yazidi family in Dohuk, Iraq. ISIS murdered all the men in the family.

While the kids were growing up, the family lived in Philadelphia, first Logan, then Olney, and then East Oak Lane. In a borrowed house in Logan in the mid-1980s, the couple took in pregnant, HIV-positive women who no one else wanted to help as part of their pro-life stance, he said.

After 44 years, “We’re still in love; we’re still on our honeymoon,” he said.

While living in Logan, a would-be robber attacked him as he came home from an evening church service. When he said he had no money, the man stabbed him and “left a knife in my head.”

Their son, Luke, then 2, was diagnosed with leukemia shortly afterward. He was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on the Eagles Fly for Leukemia floor, recovered, and is now cancer-free.

Devlin traveled to northern Nigeria, Gaza, Egypt, and Jordan in June.

In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram and the Fulani Islamist jihadists burned down 32 villages.

“I’ve committed to rebuilding one of the villages,” he said. He plans to raise $50,000 and has already garnered $35,000. He will work with the governor of Plateau State in a public-private partnership.

“We will rebuild the church, the school, and 50 houses,” he said.

“I started REDEEM! in 2010, and then God called me to war zones,” he said. “And that was my target area, meaning Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Gaza. And in the midst of that, as I looked at who are the people that I’m attempting to reach and that would be widows, orphans, the neglected, the forgotten, the broken, the lost.” So, Devlin created another charity, Widows and Orphans.

“I have an earned doctorate in emotional trauma, which allows me entrée,” he said. “That gave me influence in areas where I go, whether it’s to work with the Yazidi girls and women who were taken as sex slaves by the Islamic State (ISIS), so I work in northern Iraq, AKA Kurdistan.”

He has helped persecuted Christians in many countries, including Kenya and Sri Lanka, but added he only goes where he is invited.

Pastor Devlin and his Yazidi team leader meet with a Yazidi mother and daughter who were captured by ISIS and held for a year. Widows and Orphans is helping them financially and emotionally.

“And, of course, my work in Nigeria, with the women who have seen their husbands beheaded by Boko Haram in the West Africa Islamic State province by Fulani herdsmen. I do trauma healing and Jesus gatherings in four cities in Nigeria.”

Most recently, he traveled to Kano State in northern Nigeria and was “ministering to orphans there.”

“In May 2023, when the outgoing president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, left office, over 700 Christian believers were murdered within Nigeria in 10 states. The Fulani Jihadist, Islamist herdsmen said, ‘We give this as a gift to the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari.’ That was their gift, to kill the infidels.”

Devlin, through his charity, provides “emotional, spiritual, psychological and practical physical care to persecuted Christians” in Nigeria and 17 other countries. “That’s what God has called me to do.”

There is a small community of Christians living in Gaza that Devlin visits, bringing food, medicine, and money. Hamas (the ruling Islamic group) has allowed their three churches to remain. He also delivers items to Muslims in refugee camps, he said. When he speaks to Hamas leaders, he always tells them, “Israel is your friend,” and points to free medical care in Israeli hospitals for Gaza residents.

Devlin also serves as co-pastor at Infinity Bible Church in South Bronx, professor at Nile Theological College in Khartoum, Sudan, and co-chair of Right to Worship in New York City. If all this wasn’t enough, Devlin recently joined the Huntingdon Valley Fire Company to “give back to my community.”

“I am a long-term advocate of Israel and the right of the state of Israel to exist and a supporter of the Jewish people here in America and around the world,” said Devlin.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said, “Pastor Bill Devlin is a person of faith who speaks out for people of all faiths under attack. He marches with me each year in the Celebrate Israel Parade as a proud advocate of the Jewish State. Fearlessly, he travels to several countries where Christians are persecuted and seeks to redeem those who are imprisoned. Some people in our world do so little and ask, ‘What can I do?’ Pastor Bill Devlin risks his life and asks, ‘What else should I do?’ He is a true blessing to humankind.”

Devlin’s father, an alcoholic, left the Schenectady, N.Y., family when he was 16. His mother died two years later. He graduated high school and went to live with a brother, and then joined the Navy. It sent him to San Diego, and while hitchhiking along a highway there, he met a “Jesus freak” who changed his life.

“I heard the Good News about Jesus, and that was the night of June 23, 1971, when I invited God into my heart and life, and He transformed me,” said Devlin. “And two weeks later, I volunteered to go to Vietnam.”

“A year after my conversion to Jesus, I was in a battle off the coast of North Vietnam. I was on a ship (the U.S.S. Bausell), and they blew up part of our ship. And that’s where I was wounded.”

Devlin received the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Medal, and other honors.

In 2022 the Biden administration gave Devlin a Volunteer Service award for his work with persecuted Christians.

Mark Houck, a pro-life activist and Republican candidate for Congress in Bucks County, counts Devlin among his friends.

“Pastor Bill Devlin is the most courageous man I know. He has sacrificed himself so much for the crucified church that I see the face of Christ in him every time I am in his company. A true hero. A true patriot. A true Christian,” said Houck.

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Pro-Life Activist Houck Challenging Rep. Fitzpatrick in GOP Primary

Pro-life activist Mark Houck may be riding the fame that came from being wrongfully prosecuted by the federal government all the way to Congress.

Houck announced he will challenge four-term Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) in the 2024 Republican primary.

In January, a jury acquitted Houck, 48, of all charges. The Bucks County father had been accused of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act on Oct. 13, 2021, when he pushed a volunteer escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Locust Street in Philadelphia. The escort, who had confronted Houck’s 12-year-old son, Mark Jr., was not seriously injured. Philadelphia courts declined to prosecute Houck, but after Roe v. Wade was overturned about a year later, the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges.

Houck, who protested in front of abortion clinics for years, could have been sentenced to 11 years in prison if convicted.

During a podcast interview, Houck told DVJournal he believes the Biden administration has implemented a two-tier, partisan justice system targeting “American citizens who are exercising their constitutional rights.”

“I’m an enemy of the state, as are many others like me. And we saw that all played out in 2022. It’s still playing out,” Houck said. “So, clearly, there is an agenda there. And you know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. All of a sudden, Roe v. Wade gets overturned in June 2022. And now I’m a target of the federal government. Come on!”

Asked why he’s running, Houck gave an apocalyptic answer: “Because the republic is falling apart. That’s what Congressman Scott Perry (R-Dauphin) shared with me when I asked him his thoughts about me running. And he said, ‘Look, we need people of integrity. We need people of your character in Washington. So, if not you, then who? Right? So that’s the short answer. Obviously, what happened to me and my family, my wife and seven children, you know, we don’t want that ever to happen to anyone else ever again in this country.”

Asked about challenging a pro-life Republican in a Democratic corner of the state, Houck rejected the idea that Fitzpatrick is truly pro-life.

Houck cited the congressman’s vote to fund abortions for military members. However, Fitzpatrick has voted in favor of pro-life bills, including the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a resolution against violence against pregnancy resource centers, and against the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would wipe out state pro-life laws and permit abortion unit the moment of birth.

And in 2022, Fitzpatrick’s Democratic challenger, Ashley Ehasz, attacked his pro-life stance.

Asked about Houck’s candidacy, the national organization SBA Pro-Life America sounded supportive.

“The Biden-Harris administration will stop at nothing, including weaponizing the Justice Department to punish political enemies like Mark Houck and protect the abortion industry that spends millions to elect them. It is clear the administration has put a target on anyone who reveals the horror of abortion and works to protect unborn children and their mothers. In this new Dobbs era, that’s why it is so important to have pro-life leaders and put a stop to the Democrats’ extreme agenda.”

Houck, a Kintnersville resident, said that while abortion is not his only issue, “The life of the child in utero is, is of [primary] importance. And of course, you know, all things flow from that. So our decisions on energy, our decisions on education, our decisions on the environment, they’re all going to stem from the dignity of the human person.”

Houck said he is pro-legal immigration but not the “22 million” illegal immigrants who have entered the country under Biden’s policies. He is also concerned about fentanyl that is killing thousands.

Houck, a father of seven, runs a nonprofit called The King’s Men. The group helps men in their roles as fathers and providers.

Ashley Garecht, vice chair of the Pro-Life Union of Philadelphia, said, “As a nonprofit, the PLU does not endorse any political candidates. Mark has been a staunch defender of the unborn for decades, and his work for The King’s Men and in partnership with the Pro-Life Union has had a significant effect on the lives of hundreds of families dealing with crisis pregnancies.

“Given the egregious behavior of the Biden administration’s Department of Justice last year, weaponizing the full force of government in an attempt to strip Mark of his First Amendment and parental rights and intimidate into silence the broader Philadelphia pro-life movement, it is no surprise that Mark is now focused on reforming a federal government that has disintegrated into corruption and one-sided application of justice.”

But some political pundits believe Houck will need a miracle to prevail.

“Does anyone really believe Mr. Houck will do better than the other GOP challengers who fell to Congressman Fitzpatrick in the past?” asked Christopher Nicholas, a political consultant with Eagle Consulting Group. “That district has no history in general elections of supporting Republicans whose only top issue is pro-life. I don’t expect that to change next year,” said Nicholas, who grew up in Bucks County.

Fitzpatrick did not respond to requests for comment.

 

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Wray, Garland Throw Philly FBI Under the Bus in Houck Arrest

Confronted with tough questions about armed agents making an early-morning show of force at an unarmed pro-lifer’s house, America’s top law enforcement officials pushed the blame onto the Philadelphia office of the FBI.

At issue was the decision to send armed, shield-wielding federal agents, brandishing semi-automatic rifles, to arrest Bucks County pro-life activist Mark Houck. Houck was charged with allegedly violating the federal Freedom to Access Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act after a minor scuffle with a clinic escort. Local authorities declined to charge him over the incident, and his attorneys had already offered to bring in the father of seven to turn himself in.

Instead, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, executed an early-morning raid on his home to take Houck into custody.

When his case went to trial, it took a Philadelphia jury just an hour to acquit Houck of all charges.

Garland was grilled about the DOJ’s actions by Republican senators on Wednesday. Rather than explaining the rationale for bringing the case in the first place, or offering a defense of using armed agents for the arrest, Garland pushed the responsibility onto the local FBI.

Despite photos showing the armed agents, Garland insisted the Senators’ description of events “didn’t match” the information he was given by the local FBI. When asked how their actions matched the guidelines of the DOJ — which call for a “reasonable” use of force in each situation — he again deferred to the local agents.

“They made decisions on the ground about what is safest and easiest,” Garland said.

Senators found his answers less than satisfactory.

“In the early morning, Mrs. Houck said the children were screaming. He offered to turn himself in. And this is who you go to terrorize?” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

“You use an unbelievable show of force with guns –liberals usually decry long guns and assault-style weapons. We’re supposed to hate long guns.  You’re happy to deploy them against Catholics and innocent children, and then you haul them into court. And a jury acquits him in one hour.  I just suggest to you that that is a disgraceful performance by your justice department and a disgraceful use of resources.”

Carrie Adamowski, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia FBI, defended the level of force used in the Houck case. “Extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant. The FBI then employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or search.

“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 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.”

Houck told DVJournal the raid on his house remains fresh in his mind.

A judge had found he was not a flight risk, had no criminal history, and he was released on his own recognizance the same day as his arrest, Houck said. And yet, “they pointed M-16s at my wife and children.”

FBI agents shackled Houck to a table for six or seven hours, he said.

“It’s not normal to show up without a warrant,” Houck said. “It’s not normal for them not to announce ‘FBI’ and point guns at babies and little children.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray also faced questions about the Houck arrest, during a Tuesday interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Asked about the significant show of force, Wray also pushed the responsibility onto the local agents.

“Those decisions are made as they should be by the commanders on the ground in the field office who have the expertise about when to conduct operations safely and securely for the safety of everybody involved. And to my knowledge, those processes were all followed in this case,” Wray answered.

Houck said he believes his treatment, from arrest to trial, was not a mistake by local FBI officials.

“Obviously, Director Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland told the DOJ to pursue people like me,” Houck said.

 

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Bucks County Pro-Life Activist Acquitted of Federal Charges

Bucks County pro-life activist Mark Houck was acquitted of all charges by a jury in federal court in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.

Houck, 48, had been charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act for incidents on Oct. 13, 2021, where he pushed a volunteer escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Locust Street in Philadelphia. The escort, who had been confronting Houck’s 12-year-old son, Mark Jr., was not seriously injured. Philadelphia courts declined to prosecute Houck, but after Roe v. Wade was overturned about a year later, the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges.

“We are, of course, thrilled with the outcome,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive vice president and head of litigation who helped represent the Bucks County father of seven. “Mark and his family are now free of the cloud that the Biden administration threw upon them. We took on Goliath – the full might of the United States government – and won.”

Houck had faced up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

After the verdict, Houck thanked his family and supporters “all over the world,” including the financial support that he received.

“How do you not feel the blessing of that?” he asked. And he thanked the lawyers from the Thomas More Society, along with local defense attorney Brian McMonagle

The circumstances of the case raised questions about possible political motives behind the Biden administration’s decision to prosecute. The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert, asked during the trial if the FACE Act wasn’t “being stretched a little thin here.”

The prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict.

Before the trial began, Breen noted the federal government’s decision to swarm Houck’s home and make a high-profile arrest rather than send notice that he needed to turn himself in.

“Think about that. Twenty-five FBI agents go to his home as if he were somehow a danger,” said Breen, who added the lawyers had offered to bring Houck in “at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

“It’s clear that intimidation is one of the tactics being used by the federal government,” said Breen. “And I can tell you that I received calls from sidewalk counselors that were intimidated. They’re wondering, ‘Am I going to be next?’”

Christine Flowers, a Philadelphia pro-life commentator and an attorney,  shared those concerns.

“While Houck’s attorneys deserve a great deal of praise for their exceptional advocacy, I think the most important takeaway from this victory is that Americans can detect when a prosecution is being waged for political reasons and not because there is a legitimate cause of action. The Biden administration has been sent a very clear message: stop trying to crush the pro-life movement under the guise of protecting women’s access to healthcare,” said Flowers.

“As a lawyer, I am always deeply gratified when I see the justice system work as it was designed to work: Protect the innocent and convict the guilty. With the acquittal of Mark Houck, it is clear that the jurors who heard this case understood that essential principle.”

The Biden Justice Department has brought several FACE Act cases against pro-life activists. But now under scrutiny by the Republican U.S. House of Representatives, it recently charged two pro-choice activists for allegedly vandalizing pro-life pregnancy centers.

In dramatic testimony on Friday, Houck, a Catholic, said clinic escort Bruce Love had cursed at him and his son and baited him with remarks about pedophile priests and masturbation.

Mark Jr., now 14, testified Love stood within feet of him and told him that his father was “a bad person.”

Houck, who runs a pro-life ministry called The King’s Men, spends several hours every week in front of that clinic doing sidewalk counseling to deter women from having abortions. He testified that he had been doing this for years, knew the rules, and never blocked a clinic entrance.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Brian McMonagle argued the case was about Houck’s First Amendment rights to free speech, religion, and assembly.

Many supporters had packed the courtroom in the trial before Judge Gerald Pappert. Several held rosaries as they listened intently to testimony and arguments in the case. They also held prayerful protests outside the courthouse and outside the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Pastor William Devlin, a fellow pro-life activist and Houck’s friend, led supporters in prayer and singing for Houck, and spoke at the protests.

Devlin said he believed God heard their prayers.

“We thank God that Mark has been exonerated,” said Devlin. “That the jury understood the decision and Mark Houck was found not guilty. It was the result of persistent prayer and worship and we thank Jesus for allowing the not guilty verdict.”

Breen said, “This is a win for Mark and the entire pro-life movement. The Biden Department of Justice’s intimidation against pro-life people and people of faith has been put in its place.”

 

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FLOWERS: Activist Justice Department Loses Pro-Life Case Against Bucks County Dad But We All Win

Mark Houck was acquitted of federal charges, which could have put him in jail for over a decade. He was acquitted of federal charges that would have separated him from his seven children, his wife, and his work on behalf of the unborn. He was acquitted of federal charges lodged by an activist Department of Justice that cherry-picks the targets of its ire, including parents who protest at school board meetings because they refuse to have their children exposed to inappropriate sexual materials.

The fact that he was acquitted is incredibly important. The takeaway from the acquittal is that a jury of regular men and women, selected from a general pool of citizens, was able to see through a political prosecution presented under the guise of protecting women’s access to healthcare.

We in the pro-life movement understand that not everyone, and perhaps not even a majority of people, agrees with our position on abortion. Poll after poll indicates most Americans think abortion should be legal at some level, and an overwhelming majority of those who oppose abortion would still allow for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s health.

It’s no secret that in championing life at all stages and in all circumstances, we do not reflect the current view on this extremely divisive topic.

But we were told, on Monday afternoon, that we are not alone in believing that the full force of the United States government should not be brought down upon the head of a man who has eschewed violence and instead, has attempted to dissuade women from committing violence against the most innocent of beings. What makes this verdict so powerful is that people who might themselves support abortion rights were unwilling to allow federal law to be used as a weapon against someone whose religious beliefs and moral values compel him to advocate for the unborn.

As an attorney, this gives me hope.

Setting aside the pro-life issue, I can still see how this jury upheld the rule of law. Nothing that was presented as evidence in court sustained the allegations that Houck had used violence to prevent women from accessing abortion. The fact that an elderly man who was spouting expletives at a teenager got shoved was, at most, simple assault (and even that was thrown out at the state level). To elevate a mundane skirmish between a pro-life activist and an abortion clinic escort shows how biased this Department of Justice has become when it deals with hot-button controversies like abortion and parental rights. And a jury said, “no, this time you won’t win.”

The truth is, we are all winners in this case. Even if you support abortion up to the last trimester, and even if you would never raise your voice in prayer before a Planned Parenthood clinic, and even if you are angered by the Dobbs decision overturning Roe last June, you should celebrate the fact that a jury of men and women, like you, spoke truth to the immense power of the federal government and said that they would not allow the laws to be manipulated to send out a partisan message.

Today it was Mark Houck. Tomorrow it could be you. This is an extremely important precedent and an affirmation of the rule of law.

 

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Deadlocked Jury in Trial for Bucks County Pro-Life Activist to Return Monday

After deliberating for more than two hours, jurors in the trial for pro-life activist Mark Houck were deadlocked as of late Friday afternoon. Federal Judge Gerald Pappert instructed them to return Monday and continue their work.

Houck was charged with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act nearly a year after the Oct. 13, 2021, incidents. The Bucks County resident could be sentenced to 11 years in prison if convicted.

During dramatic testimony Friday, Houck said he had been sworn at and baited by clinic escort Bruce Love. But when Love began talking to his 12-year-old son, Mark Jr., he lost his cool.

Love allegedly told Houck, “Why don’t you go home and masturbate? Go be with your pedophile priests.”

Houck, 48, runs pro-life nonprofit The King’s Men and said he was familiar with Love, a volunteer escort at the Planned Parent Elizabeth Blackwell Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia and other Planned Parent locations. Houck prays outside the clinic regularly and he does sidewalk counseling with women who come to the center, he said.

Mark Jr., has been accompanying his father to court, and then going to practice at the Philadelphia Boys Choir at 4 p.m. It takes the Houcks about two hours to drive into the city from Kintersville.

Mark Jr. testified Love ran after his father, who had approached two women who had left the center and were across the street. Houck testified that Love came up from behind and got in between him and one of the women, startling him. He said he pushed him.

Then about 45 minutes later, Love came back out and stood within a foot of Houck’s son.

“He said, ‘Your dad is a bad person,” Mark Jr. said. Houck told Love to go back to where he usually stood and not to talk to his son.

When Love continued talking to Mark Jr., Houck pushed the 72-year-old escort, who fell on the sidewalk.

After Mark Jr. stepped down from the witness stand his mother, Ryan-Marie, hugged him. Onlookers packed the courtroom, several holding rosary beads.

Houck, the father of seven children, said that in addition to his work with the nonprofit, he coached youth sports and volunteers for other nonprofits. He said he does the sidewalk counseling out of “a spirit of charity and compassion.”

When defense attorney Brian McMonagle asked if he prevented anyone from going into the abortion clinic, Houck said he had not. But he did talk to women and let them know there was a pregnancy resource center nearby where they could get the help they might need if they chose to keep their babies or put them up for adoption.

When Love started talking to Mark Jr., Houck said he intervened.

“I’m a dad,” said Houck. “I told him to stay away from my son.”

Love told Mark Jr., “’ Your dad is hurting women,’” Houck said. “I told him, ‘You don’t have permission to talk to my son’…I turned and reacted and pushed him.”

Houck was surprised when Love fell. “I pushed Mr. Love because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy.” After Love fell, Houck took his son to a nearby hoagie shop. They then went into a cathedral and prayed. Houck got a text that officers wanted to talk to him, and he went back to the clinic and gave a statement.

However, Houck was not prosecuted in state court and a judge dismissed a private complaint brought by Love. But the Biden administration still chose to make a federal case of the incident.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve cross-examined Houck, trying to get him to admit that he pushed Love because he was a clinic escort. But Houck repeated that it was because Love was bothering his son.

She accused Houck of telling escorts they will go to a “special place in hell.”

“They’re all collaborating in the evil of abortion,” Houck said, denying that he made that remark. “They’re children of God, and I pray for them.”

Under repeated questioning, Houck said he gets a $ 50-a-week stipend for gas from the Pro-Life Union of Pennsylvania for driving to the clinic from rural Bucks County. She also repeatedly asked him about his nonprofit’s webpage, which he said he posts blogs on but others, including a webmaster, also work on.

Eve pointed out that he had raised more than $400,000. Houck said that money was for his legal defense.

During his closing argument, Department of Justice civil rights trial lawyer Sanjay Patel said the government had proven its case and asked the jury to convict Houck. Houck admitted he had pushed a 72-year-old grandfather twice, said Patel. Houck is younger and larger than Love and should have known that he could hurt him. And an escort is protected under the FACE Act, Patel said. And Houck acted to prevent Love from carrying out his job as a clinic escort, Patel said.

“The government is asking you to hold Mr. Houck responsible,” said Patel. “Don’t let him hide behind his son.”

In his closing, McMonagle said that the government had not proved that Houck pushed Love because he was a clinic escort. Rather it was because Love was harassing his son and refused to stop. And, he said, during her opening, Eve said the prosecution was not political, but McMonagle asked the jury to think for themselves about why it took a year from the incident for the government to bring charges and what had happened in the U.S. during that time.

And while Patel argued that Love was going by the book, McMonagle pointed out the rule book for clinic escorts tells them not to engage with protesters. And an email from a Planned Parenthood official said Love “has been spoken to about our nonengagement policy and he continues to disregard it.”

McMonagle said the heart of the case is the First Amendment and the rights that Houck has to speak, assemble, and practice his religion.

“This case is about a parent’s love for his child,” said McMonagle. “There isn’t any greater love than that.”

He also pointed out that Love gave several versions of the events when talking to the FBI.

“If in fact at the end of the trial, you have more questions than answers, you have reasonable doubt” and must find Houck not guilty, he told the jury.

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Protestors Pray as Jury is Selected for Trial of Bucks County Pro-Life Activist

As lawyers inside Philadelphia’s federal courthouse selected the jury to pass judgment on Mark Houck in his upcoming trial, supporters outside said prayers and offered encouragement for the Bucks County pro-life activist they believe is the victim of a political prosecution.

Houck, 49, of Kintersville in Bucks County, is charged with violating the FACE Act for an altercation with abortion clinic escort Bruce Love outside a Philadelphia facility. According to the indictment Houck “verbally confronted” escort Bruce Love “and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground” outside the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia.

Houck could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

Evangelical pastor William Devlin led the group of 30 or so protesters reciting the “Our Father” and singing “Amazing Grace.”

The case has national implications regarding whether an escort who volunteers at abortion clinics can be considered an abortion provider. Legal experts who support Houck said the entire case was a stretch of the original law and have suggested the prosecution is motivated more by abortion politics than law enforcement. Those concerns were heightened when federal authorities chose to send some 25 heavily armed FBI agents to arrest Houck at his home as his wife and frightened children looked on.

Houck was released on his own recognizance the same day.

David Walsh

Houck has garnered the support of many in the pro-life community. The Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, is helping with his defense.

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great,” said local pro-life leader Patrick Stanton at the gathering. “And if this kind of thing can happen to a law-abiding father and husband, America is trembling.”

“It’s important for us to stand together,” said Marlene Downing with the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. “There is a lot of evil rising up. It’s because they feel like they can [act this way] because people who are Christian are not standing for what they should be standing for. And look at you guys out here, standing for the right thing.

Christine Flowers, a Delaware Valley Journal columnist, also spoke to the protesters.

“After a British military victory during World War II Winston Churchill was famously quoted as saying, ‘This is not the end. It’s not the beginning of the end. But it might, perhaps, be the end of the beginning.’ That’s the way I felt when Roe was overturned last year. Because I knew the battle was just beginning in the states and the increasing hysteria of abortion rights supporters led me to believe we were in for an onslaught. What is happening with Mark Houck is emblematic of that. And we need to be prepared and vigilant.”

Malvern resident David Walsh who was protesting said, “I’m here to support Mark Houck and his family and pray for the successful relief of these charges and pray the federal government steps up in the Department of Justice and does what they should be doing (to bring charges against those vandalizing pro-life maternity centers and churches).”

Walsh often does sidewalk counseling for pregnant women outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in West Chester. Houck had been a sidewalk counselor for many years before his arrest.

Ted Meehan of Newtown Square said he had been involved in the pro-life movement for 40 years.

“I’m here because of the injustice of what’s going on to Mark Houck and what was done,” said Meehan. “And compare that to the ongoing, almost daily Churches and pro-life centers…It’s a grotesque double standard.”

A Lower Moreland resident, Devlin is affiliated with Infinity Church in the Bronx and is the director of Widows & Orphans, which goes into war zones to help. He is a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart.

He and his wife Nancy assist formerly sex-trafficked girls “so the pro-life commitment goes beyond just saving babies,” said Devlin.

“I’ve been a colleague of Mark Houck for 20 years,” he said. “My organization and Mark’s organization have worked together on a number of issues. I’ve known Mark as a father, as a husband, as a Christian believer.”

Houck has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his attorneys plan to argue that the FACE Act does not cover a clinic escort in any case.

The trial before Judge Gerald Pappert is expected to last through the week.

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Trial for Bucks County Pro-Life Advocate to Begin Tuesday

The trial for Mark Houck, the Bucks County pro-life advocate charged with violating the FACE Act for an altercation with an abortion clinic escort, is set to begin at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Jan. 24.

The case has national implications as to whether an escort can be considered an abortion provider under the law. Houck, who was arrested by a small army of FBI agents and other law enforcement as his wife and frightened children watched, has become a cause celeb for the pro-life movement.

One of Houck’s lawyers, Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, said the government is pressing the wrong charges. And although Judge Gerard Pappert, a Republican who had formerly served as the state attorney general, denied a motion to dismiss, Breen was heartened by the judge’s remarks in that decision.

Mark and Ryan-Marie Houck and their children

“The judge recognized in his order that the altercation was about literature and that’s not a FACE violation,” said Breen.  (FACE is the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances” Act.) Houck, who leads a Catholic men’s ministry, had gone back toward the clinic to retrieve some of the brochures he had been handing out that were in a trash can when he was confronted by the escort.

The escort, Bruce Love, was also “harassing” Houck’s then 12-year-old son.

“If two people have an argument over harassment of (one’s) son or positioning on the sidewalk, that sort of thing is clearly not a violation of the FACE Act,” said Breen.

The FACE Act or Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act does not include volunteer escorts, Breen said.

“We vigorously dispute the allegations,” said Breen. “It’s not a violation unless the person is somehow impacting the abortion process. And that’s not the case here, very clearly.”

During pretrial litigation, Houck’s team showed evidence that Congress did not intend to include volunteer escorts when the FACE Act was written. They quoted the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) who said, “Demonstrators, clinic defenders, escorts, and other persons not involved in obtaining or providing services in the facility may not bring such a cause of action (under FACE).”

City police and the district attorney previously declined to file charges against Houck. A private legal action filed by the pro-abortion activist was dismissed.

“What we’ve contended is the description in the indictment is 180 degrees from the real facts of the case,” said Breen. Houck did not approach the escort. Rather, “Love made a beeline to intercept and interfere with Mark,” said Breen.

The indictment states that on Oct. 31, 2021, at the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia, Houck “by force, intentionally injured, intimidated and interfered” with Bruce Love. And also, Houck “verbally confronted B.L. and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground.”

“The government has no video, no pictures, no audio of (the incident),” Breen said.

Although the indictment claims there were two witnesses, the government has not told the defense who those people were.

Asked whether the Houck case is part of the Biden administration’s desire to promote abortion and clamp down on pro-life activity, Breen said, “Well, we are now up to almost 200 pro-life centers or churches vandalized or otherwise damaged. Instead of charging the people that did those things, you had over 20 pro-life activists charged under FACE. Our question to the administration is, when are you going to protect pro-life citizens because the charges under FACE so far have been against peaceful individuals?”

And, “the allegation against Mark is the first, as far as we know, the first and only prosecution of a pro-life sidewalk counselor for what he is alleged to do against an abortion escort.” So this is, to some extent, a test case for the Biden Department of Justice. We believe if they were to prevail, they would try to take this legal theory to other parts of the country.”

“That’s why it’s an extremely important case,” said Breen. “Folks across the country are watching it. There were no patients involved. No clinic staff.  As far as we know, that’s never been the subject of criminal prosecution by the government.”

Houck, 49, was released on his own recognizance the same day as his arrest at his Kintersville home.

“Think about that. Twenty-five FBI agents go to his home as if he were somehow a danger,” said Breen, who noted the lawyers had offered to bring him in “at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

“It’s clear that intimidation is one of the tactics being used by the federal government,” said Breen. “And I can tell you that I received calls from sidewalk counselors that were intimidated. They’re wondering, ‘Am I going to be next?’”

Pro-life activists plan a rally to support Houck outside the courthouse at 601 Market Street at 11 a.m. on Jan. 24.  A previous rally attracted dozens of supporters.

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