Rev. Mahoney v. Capitol Police

Dhillon Law Group Sues U.S. Capitol Police Board to Allow 9/11 Vigil

Washington, D.C. — In a resounding victory for the First Amendment, a federal district court has ruled in favor of Reverend Patrick Mahoney, safeguarding his—and all Americans’—free speech rights on the U.S. Capitol Grounds.

The court’s opinion affirms that Rev. Mahoney is now free to pray and peacefully demonstrate in areas previously deemed off-limits by the Capitol Police.

Here are the key points from the ruling:

  • The court found that the lower portion of the eastern Capitol steps is a traditional public forum.
  • This designation means that the Capitol Police Board’s complete prohibition on demonstration activity in this area violates the First Amendment.
  • As a result, the Capitol Police Board is permanently enjoined from enforcing the No Demonstration Zone on the lower portion of the steps.

This landmark decision ensures that every American, regardless of political backing, can exercise their right to free speech on the U.S. Capitol Grounds. Today marks a new era for demonstrations and free expression at the heart of our nation.


Following the events of January 6, 2021, the Capitol Grounds were closed to all demonstration activity, marking a dark period for free expression in America. When the Capitol Police removed the fencing months later, the Grounds were ostensibly reopened for First Amendment expression. However, Rev. Mahoney’s application for a permit to hold a prayer vigil on September 11th was denied, with the Capitol Police Board claiming the Grounds were still restricted.

At the same time, other groups were allowed to hold large protests on the Capitol Grounds, including the steps, because a member of Congress authorized them. Rev. Mahoney, lacking such advocacy, was denied the right to speak—a clear violation of constitutional rights.

Earlier this year, Rev. Mahoney reached a settlement with the U.S. Capitol Police Board to expand protest and demonstration activity on the Capitol Grounds. Today’s ruling further dismantles the restrictions on free expression imposed since January 6, 2021, and eliminates the preferential treatment previously given to certain groups favored by members of Congress.

“Today’s victory is a strong rebuke of unelected government bureaucrats wielding unchecked power over who can speak and assemble on Capitol Grounds,” says Dhillon Law Group Partner Harmeet Dhillon. “Denying a minister and his parishioners the right to pray outside the U.S. Capitol in memory of 9/11, while allowing Congresswoman Cori Bush and her supporters to protest at the same location, is indefensible. We’re grateful that the court shut down this selective enforcement and upheld our founding principles of free speech and religious freedom.”

Rev. Mahoney is a nationally and internationally known human rights activist and ordained Presbyterian minister. He has hosted prayer meetings, Bible readings, and worship services at this exact location for decades. When he sought to hold a 9/11 vigil on the Western Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021, the defendants prevented the vigil despite the removal of the fence in July and allowing other events to take place.

"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. 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."
"The US Capitol Building must be a place where all Americans are afforded the right to come and peacefully celebrate and express their First Amendment Rights. Tragically, those rights and freedoms are being denied and prohibited."

In the news

Fox News:Christian minister sues Pelosi, Harris for access to Capitol grounds for Good Friday
CNN:Pastor who wanted to pray on Capitol grounds on 9/11 anniversary won’t be able to because of security concerns
Daily Wire:Christian Minister Denied Holding Prayer Vigil On Capitol Grounds On 9/11, Files Suit
Daily Mail:Christian minister loses bid to hold Good Friday vigil on Capitol grounds – after claiming fencing put up after riots violates his First Amendment rights
Newsmax:Reverend Sues Capitol Police: Blocked From Holding 9/11 Vigil on Site
BPR:‘Return the People’s House back to the people’: Minister sues after 9/11 prayer vigil at Capitol denied
CBS58:Pastor who wanted to pray on Capitol grounds on 9/11 anniversary won’t be able to because of security concerns
KESQ:Pastor who wanted to pray on Capitol grounds on 9/11 anniversary won’t be able to because of security concerns
Western Journal:Pastor Takes Major Legal Action After He’s Blocked from Holding 9/11 Prayer on Capitol Grounds
Law Enforcement Today:Minister files lawsuit against Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris and Capitol Police for blocking Good Friday prayer vigil
Opera News:Secretary Sues Capitol Police For Allegedly Blocking His 9/11 Vigil
News Chant:Minister sues Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris over Capitol access
WND:Pastor sues after he’s blocked from holding 9/11 prayer on Capitol grounds
Law & Crime:Minister Sues Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Harris for Right to Hold Good Friday Prayer Vigil on Capitol Grounds
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