Tonight the city council of Spokane, Washington, will vote on a proposed bill from Councilwoman Lori Kinnear that, if passed, would impose limits on the monthly meetings of the church that meets outside the Spokane Planned Parenthood. The bill’s supporters claim it would protect the ability of patients to receive health care, but the church’s pastor believes the bill is “the Left just steamrolling us,” and he called on Christians to show up this evening in order to protest it.
“Christian, if you can be there tomorrow night, please be there between five and six,” said Ken Peters in a Facebook video posted yesterday, “and let’s converge upon the city, and let’s let the city of Spokane know that, ‘Hey, you can go ahead and do this, you can push this through, but the Christians are not just going to sit at home and let you do this without standing up for constitutional rights, the right to peaceably assemble, which is what we’re doing, the right to worship, and the right to have free speech.”
What’s Up with the Church Campus at the Spokane Planned Parenthood?
Peters is the pastor of Covenant Church, which has two campuses, one in Spokane and one in Moses Lake. In October 2018, he started the Church at Planned Parenthood, which Peters sees as an additional campus, just one that meets outside on the Planned Parenthood premises. Hundreds of people have attended what the church’s website calls “a worship service at the gates of Hell.” Peters says, “We care about what’s going on in our nation, that we’re murdering children, and we’re just fighting it with worship and prayer and giving and taking church from the four walls right out to the gates of hell and expecting that God will prevail.”
Peters stresses that he is leading a service, not a protest, but that has not stopped others from characterizing the meetings as the latter. Even so, Kinnear maintains that her bill “does not impact free speech. Protests are still allowed, that’s not the issue. It’s about noise.” According to the Spokesman-Review, Kinnear’s bill “would set specific protections for health care facilities like Planned Parenthood from intrusive and disruptive noise” interfering with patient care.
While Kinnear admitted her proposed legislation is connected to the church’s monthly meetings, she emphasized that the bill applies to any disruptions at any health care facility in Spokane. “We’re really past time to address this issue,” she told the Spokesman-Review. “We’re very late in the game. Everybody’s been patient trying to find alternatives and nothing’s worked.”
The tension between Planned Parenthood and the church has been ongoing for some time. Reports say that the noise levels of certain services have exceeded maximum levels set by the city and also that police officers are not enforcing those ordinances. Kinnear said she attended one of the church services and her experience was that, “I couldn’t hear myself think.” Planned Parenthood spokesman Paul Dillon has been critical of the church, saying it is in fact a protest and one that promotes “violent rhetoric.”
City spokesman Brian Coddington has said that because of the police resources required for the church at the Spokane Planned Parenthood’s events, city council leaders and Mayor Nadine Woodward have a vested interest in the situation. According to Inlander, police resources cost taxpayers $5,450 every time the church meets.
In an effort to resolve tensions between the parties involved, Woodward recently met with representatives from Planned Parenthood and the church. The abortion provider reportedly refused to meet with city leaders with Peters present, so the mayor met with each party separately. All parties agreed not to share details about the meetings, although Peters has said he found his meeting with the mayor encouraging. Coddington would not say whether or not Woodward supported Kinnear’s bill.
Peters’ View of the Spokane Planned Parenthood
The idea that the church is disrupting Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide health care, said Peters in his most recent Facebook video, is a “straw man” argument and “an absolute lie.” His reasoning is the Church at Planned Parenthood only holds its service once a month and that the services start at 5:30, half an hour before Planned Parenthood closes its doors. This is not a significant enough disruption in Peters’ mind to warrant the reactions of the abortion provider and city leaders.
What is actually going on, he believes, is spiritual warfare. “The real problem is they don’t like Christians,” said Peters. The Church at Planned Parenthood is “driving them nuts. You know why? Because the demons are mad.” The pastor urged Christians to show up to protest the vote, but to “stay holy,” showing the fruit of the Spirit as they do so instead of operating from the flesh.
Mayor Woodward, said Peters, is pro-life, so even if the bill does pass he is hopeful that she will veto it. If the bill passes and she does not veto it, there is a chance the church will pursue litigation through the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), something the city has been made aware of. And the church at the Spokane Planned Parenthood will continue to meet.
“We’re still going to have it,” Peters said. “We’re going to have to work around this, we’re going to have to figure out how to do it, if we need to make any wise adjustments, but we’re still going to have it. They’re not going to stop us from standing for the unborn.”