A pro-life Catholic priest who blocked the entrance to a New York abortion clinic was convicted on Wednesday in federal court under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York tried Father Fidelis Moscinski earlier in a bench trial in connection with his July 7 pro-life protest.
Attorneys with the Thomas More Society, which represented Moscinski, said they plan to file an appeal on his behalf with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He could receive up to six months in jail at sentencing, scheduled for April 24, the Chicago-based nonprofit pro-life law firm said.
Moscinski is the 26th pro-life American targeted by the Justice Department for violating the FACE Act in the past year. But the Justice Department has charged only two people to date with crimes related to the nearly 200 attacks against Catholic churches and pro-life groups, including pregnancy centers, since last May, according to the Catholic Vote tracker.
“When you take into account the apparent complete lack of interest in prosecuting the people who have been vandalizing pregnancy centers and churches over the last year, and even farther back than that, one could be forgiven for suspecting [Moscinksi’s verdict] is malicious,” Catholic Vote National Field Director Tommy Valentine told The Daily Signal on Friday.
In addition to Moscinski, President Joe Biden’s Justice Department arrested pro-life activist Mark Houck, who in September purportedly pushed a pro-abortion activist who he said had harassed his son. The DOJ also charged 11 more pro-life activists with violations of the FACE Act for blocking the entrance of an abortion clinic in 2021.
“There are many Catholics across the country who are horrified at how many churches and pregnancy resource centers that have been attacked,” Catholic Vote Editor Josh Mercer told The Daily Signal on Friday. “Until this week, the Justice Department had not charged anyone in these attacks. Finally, two people have been charged, but that’s only 1% of cases so far.”
Moscinski effectively shut down the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York clinic for nearly two hours on July 7 by placing glue-covered locks and chains on the clinic gate. After the fire and police departments cut through the locks, the Franciscan friar lay down in front of the entrance to prevent cars from going through the gate, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“There’s a long tradition of civil disobedience for civil rights in this country, and this priest believes strongly in the right to life,” Valentine said. “I think he’ll be remembered in the course of history as somebody who was engaging in civil disobedience.”
He said Moscinski’s verdict was “politically motivated.”
“A lot of good men and women who run and volunteer at these pregnancy centers have had their lives threatened directly,” Valentine said. “It’s really sad to see a humble priest like this going down and facing prosecution while people who have faced direct violence are going without justice and still living in fear because they don’t know what’s next.”
The militant abortion rights group Jane’s Revenge claimed responsibility for many of the attacks against pro-life institutions over the summer. It declared “open season” against pro-life organizations after the draft of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May. CatholicVote has tracked 121 attacks on Catholic churches since May and 78 attacks on pregnancy resource centers.
“It’s a sad state of affairs that the Biden administration can’t put their political bias aside to protect the lives and safety of people who do invaluable work across the country,” Valentine said.
More than 200 House Democrats voted against condemning attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers since the overturning of Roe. The resolution passed 222 to 208 with the support of just three Democrats. Democrats said they opposed the measure because it did not also discuss attacks on pro-abortion groups.
“Today, anti-abortion members of Congress are voting on two dangerous bills that: Spread misinformation about abortion, [and] ignore threats of violence against abortion providers and patients,” a tweet from Planned Parenthood Action claimed.
Mercer criticized the silence of corporate media and the DOJ regarding attacks against pro-life churches, organizations, and pregnancy centers.
“The uneven treatment from the mainstream media is galling, but we expect equal treatment under the law from our Justice Department,” he said.
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