Just a block and a half from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia stands a large colorful mural with a quotation by Abraham Lincoln saying, “It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will forever continue to struggle.”
I snapped a photo of it with my phone after I got lucky and parked my car not too far from the event I was covering. I walked down the busy city street in Old City and soon spotted about 75 people standing in a semicircle around a small wooden podium in front of the building housing the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Three armed Department of Homeland Security officers stood nearby peering at the gathering through dark sunglasses. For a few minutes people milled around, some holding signs declaring the sacredness of life. One man prayed the Rosary with his eyes closed. One woman held up a sign declaring that she was progressive, atheist and pro-life.
To my pleasant surprise I met some people that I knew, including an old friend I’d worked with as a reporter in secular newspapers years ago. She didn’t recognize me, which means either I’m getting old or her eyes are going bad. (Probably her eyes, right?)
I also met Ted Meehan, who’d coached my youngest daughter in basketball and had helped organize the event. Small world. Our conversation bounced happily from pro-life politics to basketball to one another’s families.
A man approached the podium and the group hushed itself. I pulled out my notepad and pen. Time to work. I’ll admit that this was not the guy I would’ve expected to speak at a pro-life event, never mind to lead one. There was also a Catholic priest standing nearby. I would’ve expected him to start things off with a solemn prayer and some loving words about Mark Houck.
I haven’t mentioned Mark Houck yet. He’s the reason for all of this. I’ll get to him in a minute. First, let’s talk about the Reverend Dr. William Devlin, a tall, gray-haired man with long hair pulled back into a bun. He approached the podium in a sharp black pinstripe suit over a pink clerical shirt and warmed up the crowd by urging everyone to applaud louder and raise their hands higher and make their presence known.
He was on fire and in his element, telling the crowd he’s been fighting for life and human dignity around the globe for decades. As a world traveler who has seen the worst of the worst, he declared that “the People’s Republic of Philadelphia” is a war zone, pointing to the skyrocketing murder rate and the thousands of carjackings.
But even with all these horrible crimes escalating almost daily, the federal government, using the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), brought charges against a family man named Mark Houck.
Houck is a pro-lifer’s pro-lifer. A married father of seven children, he regularly prays outside the abortion clinic in Philadelphia at least once a week. Houck was praying outside the clinic with his 12-year-old son last year when a Planned Parenthood escort wandered away from the door of the clinic to get in the face of the child standing near the gate. Houck pushed the man back away from his son, as any father would do.
As you can guess, charges were filed and the predictable media predictably ran predictable stories about the pro-lifer who struck the poor septuagenarian who merely sought to protect mothers from the dangerous pro-lifers.
What kind of world do we live in where the 70-something-year-old man who walks pregnant women into a building to kill their children is portrayed as a hero and the father of seven who offers those same women help and alternatives is a dangerous villain?
The charges were tossed out of court in Philadelphia because the “altercation” was such a non-event that the escort forgot to show up to court.
But because this is 21st-century America, this did not end there. The federal government sought literally to make a federal case of a minor incident.
When informed of the government’s interest in charging Houck with violating FACE, Peter Breen, who is with the Thomas More Society which represents Houck, said he informed the government that Houck would come in on his own.
He tried again.
Again, no response — until around 20 armed agents swarmed Houck’s house with his seven children at home.
The thing that shocks me is that anyone who knows children know how unpredictable they are in tense and upsetting situations. Anything could have happened right then depending on how a child reacted. Anything.
But for some reason, such considerations were secondary to Waco-ing Mark Houck’s farmhouse in Bucks County.
Why? Because, if you ask me, they’re sending a message to pro-lifers, the same way they did to David Daleiden, the man who filmed abortionists agreeing to sell body parts. Since then, his life has been dragged through trials, fines and courtrooms. Their message is that our active opposition to abortion make us dangerous and they can’t have others doing the same. So they’re hoping to make Mark Houck another cautionary tale.
But I don’t think they foresaw what’s happened. With virtually zero national news coverage, people across the country are still hearing about this. The word is getting out and people are rallying to Houck’s defense and speaking out.
Former Pennsylvania Senate candidate Kathy Barnette also spoke at the event, saying she believed she’d be targeted for speaking out in favor of Mark Houck and his family but came anyway.
“What does it say about a nation who would look at the most innocent people and say, ‘You don’t matter. You don’t count?’ And then weaponize the government to intimidate those who understand that that is a life,” Barnette said.
But that is exactly what we’re looking at. A branch of government has been weaponized against people with a certain set of beliefs. We live in dangerous times.
“It is going to cost us from this point forward to say there is such a thing as truth. And I am going to stand and not cower.”
Local talk show legend Dom Giordano pointed out that, “In a way, Mark Houck is doing a service … for every one of us here.”
The Catholic priest who was present ended the event on his knees, leading the group in prayer.
After the event I wandered through the crowd and came upon a woman who looked familiar. It turned out I’d interviewed her in the past. She is also Mark Houck’s mother-in-law. Kathleen McCarthy, who attended the protest along with some of Ryan-Marie Houck’s numerous siblings. We spoke for a few minutes and she said the family was working hard to get through this difficult time.
But she pointed out to me that Mark and his family “are not victims. They are victorious in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I nodded and agreed. Mark Houck is doing exactly what God wants from his followers. Now it’s up to the rest of us to stand strong as well. Mark Houck is an inspiration. I told her we all had to live up to his example.
The DHS agents were gone. They’d run back into the building about halfway through the event. One yellow car with an insanely loud engine had circled the block numerous times while the event was going revving its engine loudly, growling like an unleashed demon. But it too was gone, though I could still hear it a block or two away. I walked back to my car. On my way back I prayed that I would be as brave and faithful as Mark Houck. I re-read Lincoln’s quotation on the wall. This battle between right and wrong continues. The good news is that people are more aware of it than ever before. The facade of normalcy has slipped. The peril is becoming clear.
I returned to my car to find two traffic violations stuck in the windshield. Good to see Philadelphia is all about law and order.
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