Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland over the FBI’s arrest of a Catholic pro-life father during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Pro-life activist Mark Houck was found not guilty of federal charges alleging he violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act in January. Federal officials had claimed Houck assaulted an abortion clinic worker, while he said he was protecting his son from verbal assault. Multiple police vehicles and armed FBI agents raided Houck’s home in September, as his children begged for the officers not to take their father away.
“You used an unbelievable show of force, with guns I might note that liberals usually decry,” Hawley said during the hearing. “We’re supposed to hate long guns and assault style weapons, you’re happy to deploy them against Catholics and innocent children. Happy to. And then you haul him 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.”
Houck’s case highlighted what some see as an unfair bias against pro-life protesters in the FBI’s dealings. Houck’s lawyer claimed the Department of Justice’s actions were intended to “intimidate people of faith.” A former attorney at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division under George W. Bush and Barack Obama previously told the Daily Caller that the Biden administration was “weaponizing” the DOJ through the FACE Act.
Hawley also brought up a leaked memo from the Richmond FBI field office that advised the Bureau to infiltrate groups of traditionalist Roman Catholics who they claimed were at risk of committing acts of extremist violence. The FBI confirmed to the Daily Caller that they were retracting the memo and conducting an internal review.
“Attorney General, are you cultivating sources and spies in Latin mass parishes and other Catholic parishes around the country?”
“The Justice Department does not do that, it does not do investigations based on religion,” Garland responded. “I saw the document you have, it’s appalling, I’m in complete agreement with you. I understand that the FBI has withdrawn it and is now looking into how this could ever have happened.”
“I’ll tell you how it happened. This memorandum, which is supposed to be intelligence, cites extensively the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which goes on to identify all these different Catholics as being part of hate groups.”
The memorandum in question included a list from the SPLC of “Radical Traditional Catholicism Hate Groups.”
“Attorney General Merrick Garland owes every American a truthful answer to the growing evidence that he is not committed to equally enforcing our nation’s laws,” Brian Burch, president of the conservative advocacy group Catholic Vote said in a statement provided to the Caller.
“He presides over a deeply partisan and reckless Department of Justice that is openly weaponizing our nation’s law enforcement agencies against the Administration’s political opponents. This includes the egregious targeting of concerned parents and innocent pro-life citizens.”
Reporting from Daily Caller.