A pro-life volunteer and father of seven was arrested on questionable charges by the FBI in a SWAT raid involving around 20 federal agents with guns drawn, even as his wife and children, some of whom were screaming, looked on.
Mark Houck regularly spends his Wednesdays offering “sidewalk counsel” at two abortion centers in Philadelphia, according to Life News. He also runs a Catholic ministry for men, encouraging them to live out Christian values.
The incident that led to his arrest on Friday stems from an altercation last year near a Planned Parenthood clinic where he pushed a man who was harassing his son.
Houck maintains that his actions were in defense of his son, only 12, who was being verbally attacked by a clinic “escort,” a man Houck then pushed away, according to Brian Middleton, who spoke with the Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Sunday on behalf of the Houck family.
Houck’s attorneys with the Thomas More Society say the son faced “vulgar verbal attacks,” according to a statement shared with The Lion on Monday by spokesperson Tom Ciesielka.
“This case is being brought solely to intimidate people of faith and prolife Americans,” Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen said in the statement. “Mark Houck is innocent of these lawless charges, and we intend to prove that in court.”
Those charges allege that Houck violated the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (or FACE Act), but his attorneys notified Biden’s Department of Justice months ago that the Act does not apply to the incident involving Houck.
“In June 2022, Thomas More Society attorneys notified the Biden Department of Justice that the FACE Act does not cover one-on-one altercations like the one involving Houck, which was initiated by the abortion proponent who was harassing Houck’s son,” Ciesielka said. Thomas More Society previously won a similar case in 2019.
After the incident last year, neither city police nor the district attorney filed charges against Houck. However, a criminal complaint was filed in Philadelphia municipal court by the escort, according to Middleton. The case was dropped in July after the plaintiff failed to show in court multiple times.
However, days later Houck was notified in a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s office that there was a “federal criminal probe into the same incident,” CNA reports.
In June, Houck’s attorneys told the DOJ that he would voluntarily appear if, in fact, charges were filed in the case.
“Rather than accepting Mark Houck’s offer to appear voluntarily, the Biden Department of Justice chose to make an unnecessary show of potentially deadly force, sending twenty heavily armed federal agents to the Houck residence at dawn this past Friday,” explained Breen. “In threatening form, after nearly breaking down the family’s front door, at least five agents pointed guns at Mark’s head and arrested him in front of his wife and seven young children, who were terrified that their husband and father would be shot dead before their eyes.”
Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie, described the 7 a.m. raid in a statement to CNA.
“A SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door,” she said. “They said they were going to break in if he didn’t open it. And then they had about five guns pointed at my husband, myself, and basically at my kids.”
Critics say that this is the latest example of the weaponization of federal agencies for political purposes.
“We’re told to watch out for ‘fascism’ and ‘extremism’ on the Right, meanwhile the Left sends federal agents to arrest their enemies and commits arson attacks with no legal consequence,” author and political commentator Matt Walsh tweeted. “Thirty FBI agents raided a pro-life activist’s home for no reason. Dozens of pro-life pregnancy centers have been set on fire and nobody has been arrested for it. An elderly pro-life volunteer was just shot while canvassing a neighborhood.
“They are waging an all out war on us now.”
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, called the raid “unconscionable.”
“A Catholic man arrested at gunpoint in a SWAT-style raid for protesting at an abortion clinic. Meanwhile, not a single arrest for the firebombings of pregnancy care centers. This is a deeply corrupt DOJ,” he tweeted.
A report from Life Site News pointed out other examples of politicized raids: “Since the Biden administration has taken power in January 2021, Garland’s Department of Justice and the FBI have committed dozens of SWAT team raids that have been characterized as a political ‘weaponization’ of the federal agencies, against pro-lifers, Trump supporters, conservative Christians, and medical freedom advocates.
“In March, the FBI rounded up 10 pro-life activists, including Joan Andrews Bell, with SWAT team raids that serve to intimidate and humiliate the accused through an exercise of excessive force.”
Houck will appear in federal court in Philadelphia for a 1:30 p.m. arraignment on Tuesday, according to Ciesielka.
A fundraiser set up by Houck family supporters had already raised just over $200,000 on Monday.
“Let’s show the Houck family they are not alone, while we show Planned Parenthood and its militant pro-abortion allies that the pro-life community will not be silenced by fear and intimidation,” a statement on the fundraiser website reads.