"Fund abortion, not cops!" That's what their signs said when activists burst into a Catholic mass in downtown Columbus and marched through the aisles. "Two, four, six, eight, this church teaches hate," they chanted as they rushed the pulpit where Bishop Robert Brennan was leading a day of prayer for the unborn. While a stunned congregation looked on, the police had to haul the women, pushing and shouting, from the sanctuary. A week into the investigation, most people want to know: can the rioters be charged with a crime? Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says yes.
Congress won't be much help in keeping the new administration in check. Ultimately, it'll fall on the states to decide how successful Biden's era of extremism is. That's why this case in Ohio is so important. It gives local leaders the opportunity to draw a bright red line on religious freedom -- especially where the safety of the church is concerned. After a summer of vandalism, arson, and graffiti, most congregations are wary. They're tired of the mob getting a free pass to disrupt, destroy, and mock their faith. And unfortunately, Yost explained on "Washington Watch," most states don't have the laws in place to hold the Left accountable.
"The interesting thing to me is the only real charge here... would be a fourth degree misdemeanor, only punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail called disrupting a lawful meeting," he said. "Surprisingly, California, of all places, has a much better law that protects any religious service from being disrupted. And it's a first-degree misdemeanor, up to a year in jail, and a thousand dollar fine. So I've already had some discussions here in Ohio with legislators that maybe we ought to import that California law into Ohio." Frankly, he warned, these attacks are only going to increase under a Congress and White House that emboldens them -- and we need to be prepared.
One of the avenues for bringing these thugs to justice is a little-known provision of the FACE Act -- which, ironically was passed to protect abortion center access but also happens to include a provision safeguarding churches. In subsection (a)(3), it calls for prescribes penalties for someone who "... intentionally damages or destroys the property of a place of religious worship." There was talk, back in the heat of the same-sex marriage debate when Sunday services were being disrupted by LGBT activists, of dusting it off and invoking it. The government never did. Now that the threats against men and women of faith are increasing, it might be a good time to dust it off and try it.
"I don't know that it's ever been used in this way," Yost agreed. But "the state attorney general has the right -- not only to file criminal charges, but to bring a civil lawsuit and an injunction against people that violate the disruption provisions of that law. And we're looking at that right now. We may be taking some legal action under that provision." He believes that Ohio could very possibly ask for and win an injunction to keep these bad actors away from houses of worship. If that means using the FACE Act, he's open to it. "We [want to send] a message that sacred places are sacred. That's why 1 Timothy 2 tells us to pray for those in authority so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."