Pro-lifers targeted by Biden DOJ found guilty, face 11 years for peaceful protest

Attorneys with the Thomas More Society argued that Biden's Department of Justice has demonstrated a pattern of selectively enforcing the FACE Act against pro-life individuals.

Video screenshots of the FBI's arrest of Paul Vaughn of Centerville, Tennessee. (Mary Margaret Olohan/Twitter)

(The Daily Signal) — A Nashville jury found six pro-life activists guilty Tuesday of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and conspiracy against rights based on charges brought by President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice.

Pro-life activists Chet Gallagher, Coleman Boyd, Heather Idoni, Cal Zastrow, Dennis Green, and Paul Vaughn face up to 11 years in prison, The Daily Wire reported, due to their peaceful protest in the hallway outside a Mount Juliet abortion clinic in March 2021.

The DOJ’s October 2022 release about the charges alleges that “Gallagher utilized social media to promote a series of anti-abortion events scheduled for March 4-7, 2021, in the Nashville area. Other co-conspirators then utilized Facebook to coordinate travel and logistics and to identify other participants for the blockade.”

“In his social media post, Gallagher referred to the blockade as a ‘rescue,’” the Justice Department release says. “Boyd also began a Facebook livestream broadcast of the clinic blockade at 7:45 a.m. on March 5, 2021. This livestream broadcast was titled, in part, ‘Mt. Juliet, TN Rescue March 5, 2021,’ and livestreamed the blockade event as his co-conspirators and others blocked the clinic’s entry doors and prevented a patient and an employee from entering.”

The release continues: “The livestream also broadcast members of the group attempting to engage a patient and her companion as Boyd told his livestream audience that the patient was a ‘mom coming to kill her baby.’”

Vaughn previously told The Daily Signal that the FBI came to the door of his home, “guns pointed at the door, banging on the house, yelling and screaming, ‘Open up. FBI,’ that kind of thing. When I opened the door and saw the guns pointed at me, I asked them what they wanted, who they were looking for, and they said they wanted me.”

“I had kids in the yard walking out to get in the car to go to school, I was about to take them to school, and other kids in the house,” he continued. “So seeing that the easiest path to de-escalation was me in handcuffs, I stepped outside and put an end to the ranting and the banging and the yelling.”

After the FBI put him in handcuffs and in the car, he said, his wife came outside. She had been in the back of the house with their 18-month-old baby.

Vaughn’s wife took video of the incident, which she provided to The Daily Signal. The video shows FBI agents outside the family’s home. Vaughn’s wife follows them, videotaping their conversation.

“I wanna know why you were banging on my door with a gun,” she says. “Are you not going to tell me anything?”

“No, we are not,” one agent replies. Another adds, “I tried.”

“No, you didn’t!” she shouts back. “You did not try.”

In March, attorneys with the Thomas More Society argued on behalf of Vaughn that Biden’s Department of Justice has demonstrated a pattern of selectively enforcing the FACE Act against pro-life individuals.

Vaughn’s attorneys asked the court to dismiss the DOJ’s indictment on the grounds of selective prosecution, claiming that the FACE Act is an unconstitutional content-based regulation of speech that violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

“Defendants submit that the government has engaged in selective and/or vindictive prosecution motivated by an intent to punish defendants for the content of their viewpoints and their protected expressions thus making this case an unconstitutional application of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act,” the filing says.

It continues: “In addition, FACE is an unconstitutional content-based regulation of speech; as applied, it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment; and this court lacks jurisdiction because, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, FACE is an invalid exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority.”

The filing also points out that the DOJ hauled Vaughn “and ten other defendants into court for a single alleged nonviolent violation” of the FACE Act “with over 170 uncharged incidents of destruction and vandalism at pro-life centers and churches across the country.”

“The DOJ has demonstrated clear and illegal hostility toward the pro-life viewpoint in its statements and enforcement decisions, running roughshod over fundamental religious freedoms and free speech rights, and bringing an illegal selective prosecution here,” the filing says.

The court filing repeatedly cites The Daily Signal’s report examining Kristen Clarke, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for civil rights who oversees the prosecution of the FACE Act and is openly hostile to pregnancy centers. The filing also cites The Daily Signal’s report on Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan launching a congressional inquiry into the FBI’s raid on Mark Houck.


Mary Margaret Olohan
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter for The Daily Signal.