Even some Democrats — including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. — are beginning to question the need for security features like fencing around the U.S. Capitol building in the wake of January’s riot.
In a lawsuit related to those measures, one minister has named House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a defendant in arguing that his constitutional rights were violated, Breitbart reports.
“Worked with Capitol Police”
While Norton said she has begun to see the fencing primarily as “security theater,” Rev. Patrick Mahoney believes it represents something far more sinister. According to Breitbart, the Presbyterian minister claims that the security measures in place prevented him from holding a Good Friday prayer event on the same spot he had held various similar vigils in years past.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday argues that the refusal by Pelosi and others amounted to a violation of his First and Fifth Amendment rights.
“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,” the court document states.
Ahead of last year’s event, Mahoney “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,” the lawsuit adds.
In addition to Pelosi, the lawsuit also names Vice President Kamala Harris and the United States Capitol Hill Police among the defendants.
“Guarantees for traditional public forums”
Mahoney’s court filing claims that they have prevented “any First Amendment activities” behind the fenced area despite providing evidence of any “specific threat” to the Capitol grounds.
“Defendants further refuse to inform the Plaintiff of when public sidewalks surrounding these halls of power may once again be utilized for public speech,” the suit reads, according to Breitbart.
According to the Center for American Liberty, which is representing the minister, the situation presents a clear constitutional violation.
“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,” the group’s CEO, Harmeet K. Dhillon, wrote, according to Breitbart. “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.”
In a recent statement on Fox News, Mahoney made his position clear, asserting: “We have filed this lawsuit, first of all, to return the people’s house back to the people and allow the First Amendment to be honored and celebrated at the United States Capitol. If they can ban peaceful First Amendment activities at the United States Capitol building, then free speech is in danger all across America.”