A Presbyterian minister has filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, and officials of the U.S. Capitol Police with the claim the fence blockade surrounding the Capitol building is preventing him from conducting a Good Friday prayer vigil.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney filed his complaint in federal court Tuesday, arguing his First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when authorities denied his request to hold the prayer vigil on the sidewalk near the Lower Western Terrace of the Capitol.
Nancy Pelosi & Kamala Harris banished citizen prayer from the Capitol grounds. @Liberty_Ctr sued today on behalf of Reverend Pat Mahoney to restore his 1st Amemendment rights. If any place in America needs God, it's that building. Sign the petition here! https://t.co/zQQO3OfsDv
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) March 31, 2021
The complaint observes Mahoney held his Good Friday prayer service in the same location last year:
Plaintiff’s application for a permit to hold a Good Friday prayer vigil is in the exact same location where he held his Good Friday prayer vigil in 2020. In 2020, Plaintiff worked with Capitol Police to ensure that he was able to safely hold a prayer vigil on Capitol grounds even though COVID-19 was constraining the nation.
Mahoney further states in his complaint that, as a result of their actions of surrounding the Capitol with a fence since the riot that occurred on January 6, “[d]efendants have effectively created a no-speech zone around the nation’s Capitol.”
“Defendants prevent any First Amendment activities on/in these areas, even though no specific threat to the Capitol has been identified in justification,” he adds. “Defendants further refuse to inform the Plaintiff of when public sidewalks surrounding these halls of power may once again be utilized for public speech.”
Nancy Pelosi and Capitol leadership cannot convert a traditional public forum—the Capitol grounds—into a no-speech zone where even prayers on #GoodFriday are prohibited.
The fence surrounding Fort Pelosi must go…or at least be moved to allow for peaceful expression. https://t.co/D8LWwWUZkk
— Mark Trammell (@mark_trammell) March 30, 2021
According to Fox News, an email from Capitol Police to Mahoney stated the area was “restricted,” leaving the minister’s permit request unable to be processed. A police lieutenant reportedly told Mahoney he could apply to hold the vigil at a sidewalk area that he said was “quite far from where I wanted to be.”
Mahoney claims his constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, and free exercise of religion are being violated, as well as his Fifth Amendment right to due process and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of Center for American Liberty, represents Mahoney.
“If there was ever a location in need of divine intervention, of God’s favor and wisdom, it would be the U.S. Capitol where legislators from across the country gather to pass laws that have a profound impact on virtually every aspect of our lives,” Dhillon said in a statement. “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.”
The case is Mahoney v. Pelosi, No. 1:21-cv-00859 in U.S. District Court District of Columbia.