Rev. Patrick Mahoney has filed a federal lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, and others for continuing to maintain a fence around the Capitol Grounds, claiming it is a violation of his First Amendment rights.
The Presbyterian minister’s suit, which was filed Tuesday and also targets the U.S. Capitol Police Board and the Senate Sergeant at Arms, notes that he has been attempting to hold a prayer vigil on a sidewalk near the Lower Western Terrace of the U.S. Capitol Grounds but authorities have continually denied him permission to do so.
Mahoney’s suit notes that he had been able to hold several vigils in the same location in years past, which included 2020 when he even worked with Capitol Police to ensure that he complied with current COVID-19 mandates, Fox News reported Wednesday.
“These acts by Defendants have effectively created a no-speech zone in one of the most important public forums in the nation,” says the complaint.
The Capitol Grounds has been encapsulated by a fence and razor wire, and manned by National Guard troops, since the Jan. 6 riot. Mahoney notes in his complaint that the assault on the Capitol is, in part, serving as his motivation to hold the vigil. His suit said the vigil is “for the express purpose of beseeching God’s healing from the divisiveness and anxiety lingering over our nation since the tragic events of January 6, 2021.”
An email to Mahoney from Capitol Police that was leaked to Fox News said the area where he wants to stage his vigil is currently “restricted,” thus his request has been denied.
A lieutenant with the department suggested that Mahoney make an application for a vigil on a sidewalk that he told Fox News is “quite far from where I wanted to be.” He asserted that blocking the vigil violates his First Amendment rights of free speech, assembly, and free exercise of religion. He also claimed violations of his Fifth Amendment right to due process and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Representing Mahoney is the Center for American Liberty, headed by CEO and attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon.
“Denying a minister and faithful parishioners the ability to pray outside the U.S. Capitol is unfathomable and violates First Amendment guarantees for traditional public forums,” she said in a statement to Fox News.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Guard Association, Michael McGuire, has argued recently that “it’s time to return” troops back to their homes and communities, though thousands of Guardsmen have had their mission extended until at least May 23 by the Pentagon.
“We believe there is no emergent threat and it’s time to get them back to their communities,” he told “Fox & Friends” earlier this month.
Also, Republicans have criticized the extension of the Guard mission, as well as the decision to keep the fence up around the Capitol Complex, referring to it as “Fort Pelosi.”
“It’s time to cut the crap and remember this is the people’s house,” freshman GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado noted in a campaign ad she posted earlier this month. “Madam Speaker, tear down this wall.”