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Responsible Citizens and Immoral Agency

The machine is not wrong. Men like Houck are its enemy.

U.S. Attorney General Garland Delivers A Statement At Department Of Justice
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers a statement at the U.S. Department of Justice August 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

There is a point at which one can only make an appeal to heaven. 

By all accounts Mark Houck is a man who takes responsibility. The Pennsylvania father of seven has for years done the only thing a private citizen really can do in the face of the slaughter of the unborn. He has prayed, and stood vigil before Philadelphia abortion businesses, and offered sidewalk counseling, to dissuade women who contemplate the murder of their children from walking down that well-paved road. 


In a particularly vicious sidewalk altercation last year with a pro-abortion activist who was allegedly verbally abusive to Houck’s 12-year-old son, Houck shoved the man, and he fell to the ground. That is taking responsibility, too, for the protection of his family. Houck cooperated with authorities in the aftermath. Charges were not pressed, and a Pennsylvania court eventually dismissed a complaint filed by the activist. 

But the small-souled envy of faceless institutions is bent against Americans like Houck. The Department of Justice took up the non-case to allege that Houck had violated the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act outside of an abortion mill. In June, Houck’s legal representatives, the Roman Catholic public-interest law firm Thomas More Society, informed the DOJ that the FACE Act does not apply to such an incident, but that if its officials persisted in targeting Houck and bringing a charge against him, he would appear voluntarily. This too was taking responsibility. 

That offer was rebuffed last Friday, and all responsible Americans would do well to consider it. 

Houck’s attorney, Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen, sums up last week’s raid thus: 

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. 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 has been released, and Fox News reports he is pleading not guilty to the federal charges, but the damage is done. His family can hardly feel safe when those who are to protect them have arbitrarily violated the security of their home. The wider public, too, must come to grips with this reality. Who will be held responsible? 

Senator Josh Hawley wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to answer for this. In a Monday letter, the Missouri Republican asked Garland to explain why a local dispute, and an old one, was turned into a national case while this year’s attacks on pregnancy-resource centers and pro-life organizations remain unsolved crimes. “The reports are especially shocking,” Hawley wrote, “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.”

Garland should have to answer for this. But he is only the appointed head of a body whose movements and motives are obscured by bureaucracy and scale. Who all was involved in seeking a grand jury and indictment against Houck? Whose idea was it to bring dozens of weapons to a house with seven children in it? Unless there is a congressional inquiry of the sort reserved these days for election-justice protests, we are unlikely to ever know. Indeed, the whole Department of Justice, and the federal apparatus of which it is but a part, is a vast machine apparently designed for the occlusion of responsibility. Procedures and processes serve to hide the moral agents who act behind the arbitrary enforcement and nonenforcement of law. 

The machine is not wrong. Men like Houck are its enemy. Men that take what little responsibility is in their power to prevent the grave evil their country still protects and promotes—the overturn of Roe is only the beginning—men who take responsibility for the raising and protection of the next generation of American children, they are the enemy of small-souled technicians who, self-depersoned, seek to order all human things to inhuman designs. Though we might never know what deliberations led to this injustice we cannot call it accidental.

Time in our technologically mediated world moves with such rapidity, it is hard for many of us to remember five years ago, let alone three decades ago. But responsible Americans everywhere should do their best to remember the DOJ and security state of the early ’90s. Ruby Ridge and Waco are not just fodder for television shows or the mutterings of backcountry kooks. The Global War on Terror was a sideshow—a shiny object that left millions displaced and a couple hundred thousand dead in the Middle East—which in its foreignness prompted the American people to cooperate in expanding a vast machine of state control. Now, after federal raids, and reactions to Dobbs, and moaning hysterics about “Christian nationalism,” it should be clear: the all-seeing eye has turned homeward again, where it always meant to look.