Perhaps you’ve heard – because of protests in front of Supreme Court justices’ homes recently over abortion and the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision – that there’s a federal law – 18 U.S.C. Section 1507 – that prohibits “pickets or parades” near the residences of federal judges. But did you know that the prohibition came in response to the intimidation of judges by another group, Americans identifying as Communists in the years following the end of World War II?
It may be different groups from different times, but today’s abortion protestors are using the same dangerous tactics of intimidation as yesterday’s communists, and for the same reason: they distrust, and even oppose, the democratic process.
The Internal Security Act of 1950, also called the McCarran Act, was passed by Congress over the veto of President Harry Truman. The law itself, with its requirements for communists to register with the U.S. Department of Justice, and prohibition of employment in the federal government, and its “emergency detention” provision, was mostly struck down (at least eventually) in the courts or repealed by subsequent Acts of Congress. It was in most respects an infringement of free speech.
Even President Truman thought the law would give government officials “vast powers to harass all of our citizens in the exercise of their right of free speech.” The law was a bad overreaction to the supposed “threat” that communists posed.
Yet even though most of the law is now gone – thankfully – the provision preventing the picketing and parading at courthouses and at the residences of federal judges remains.
And rightly so.
Senator Pat McCarran, D-Nev., the bill’s sponsor, spoke recently on the floor of the Senate about the need for the provision:
Mr. President, in the recent past we have witnessed the technique of the Communist Party in picketing the federal courts. If this practice continues unchecked, it cannot help but bring about a disruption for law and constitutional government under law. The essence of the federal judiciary has been the impartiality and independence under which it functions in the orderly administration of justice, but this impartiality and independence is today seriously threatened.
The facts as revealed to the Committee on the Judiciary are that in some instances the number of pickets which have been employed by the Communist Party in the picketing of federal courts has ranged from 300 to 750 in such cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York; that the participants carried picket signs distributed literature, and overcrowded the corridors and courtrooms of the court buildings.
It was further developed in the testimony before the committee that the picketing was accomplished by loud chanting of slogans and that in one case in San Francisco a sound truck was employed outside the building which created so much noise that it seriously impaired those inside the courtroom in hearing testimony.
Although these days there are zero communists – unless they’re pro-abortion as well – attempting to disrupt and threaten judges and trials, pro-abortion protestors have taken their place. And their tactics are not limited to courthouses and the homes of judges.
Since the May 2 leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in the Dobbs case, pro-abortion protestors have firebombed pro-life offices and individuals, and vandalized numerous churches and pregnancy resource centers across the country. The FBI and Department of Justice are now investigating this ongoing reign of terror.
But protestors, egged on by internet groups such as “Ruth Sent Us,” have also been showing up at the homes of Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Kavanaugh’s neighbors describe the effect on their neighborhood as “horrific.”
It gets worse.
One California man was arrested after showing up at Justice Kavanaugh’s home with a gun and a knife, intending to assassinate him.
The clear intent of the protestors is to intimidate the justices into not joining the draft Alito opinion in Dobbs that purports to overturn Roe v. Wade. And the possibility of physical violence against the justices and/or their families is very real, as the arrest of the would-be assassin of Justice Kavanaugh shows.
We’re not talking about free speech when the administration of justice is threatened because of threats to those who write judicial opinions. Threatening a justice is on par with threatening a juror to vote a certain way – or else. We can’t allow it and expect justice to be rendered in a fair and impartial manner.
Abortion protestors are free to organize and march in the streets of Washington, D.C. and elsewhere with picket signs. But by threatening the personal safety of justices and their families, protestors have crossed a line.
Even the 1950s communists had the decency to stay away from judges’ personal residences while they disrupted courthouses and courtrooms. This is not true of abortion activists today.
It’s about time that federal law enforcement officials put an end to the harassment of the justices at their homes and enforced the 1950 law. The situation is already out of hand.
Please make the ongoing safety of the justices and their families a priority in prayer.
Photo from Shutterstock.