A request from the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, for a 9/11 prayer vigil on the U.S. Capitol grounds has been rejected, leading the minister to file a lawsuit to obtain permission to hold the event.
“While the Government has permitted other events on the Capitol Grounds over the past several weeks—including at least one event on the Western Front Lawn—it failed to grant Rev. Mahoney’s permit application to hold his proposed prayer vigil without meaningful explanation, other than to say that area was ‘closed,’” the lawsuit said.
“By allowing multiple other demonstrations to proceed while not affording Rev. Mahoney the same opportunity, the Government is discriminating against Rev. Mahoney based on the content of his speech in violation of the First Amendment,” it added.
“I was denied the right to have a prayer vigil on the grounds of the US Capitol for 9/11. As I walk to church this Sunday, please pray for our federal lawsuit this week,” Mahoney tweeted on Sunday.
I was denied the right to have a prayer vigil on the grounds of the US Capitol for 9/11. As I walk to church this Sunday, please pray for our federal lawsuit this week. @mercedesschlapp @mschlapp @CPAC @mark_trammell #FreeSpeech #USCapitol #Prayer pic.twitter.com/O9q2ppGGxZ
— Rev. Patrick Mahoney (@revmahoney) September 5, 2021
“It is antithetical to the Constitution for unelected government bureaucrats and others to exhibit unfettered discretion over who is allowed to assemble on Capitol Grounds and who may not,” Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty, said in a statement.
“Denying a minister and faithful parishioners the ability to pray outside the U.S. Capitol in the memory of the 9/11 tragedy is unfathomable while Congresswoman Cori Bush and others are allowed to protest at the exact same location,” Dhillon added.
The 9/11-related lawsuit is not Mahoney’s first regarding the U.S. Capitol. Earlier this year, he sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Capitol Police and Vice President Kamala Harris in a last-ditch effort to hold a Good Friday vigil on the Capitol grounds.
Should a 9/11 prayer event be allowed at the U.S. Capitol?
Mahoney began the lawsuit because, despite some relaxation of security, he was not allowed access to the Capitol grounds as he has in the past.
“Plaintiff desires to host a prayer vigil on Capitol grounds on April 2, 2021 — the traditional Christian observance of Good Friday — for the express purpose of beseeching God’s healing from the divisiveness and anxiety lingering over our nation since the tragic events of January 6, 2021,” his lawsuit read.
The suit noted that the Capitol is “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’s lawsuit added that the issue was bigger than his proposed vigil.
“The sidewalks and other public grounds appurtenant to and surrounding the United States Capitol, traditional public forums, are currently fenced off to the public and have been since January 6, 2021. Plaintiff’s speech has been unconstitutionally deemed unworthy by the Defendant,” his lawsuit read.
The suit alleges that denying him the right to hold his vigil is a “prior restraint on speech.”
“In closing the sidewalks and public areas around the Capitol, including the Lower Western Terrace Plaintiff seeks to utilize, Defendants 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,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit further adds that Mahoney has no idea when — or if — free speech will be restored to the area near the Capitol.
“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 lawsuit read.