A church in Washington that meets outside a Planned Parenthood facility once a month has lost a court battle with Planned Parenthood. A Washington Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood by granting a preliminary injunction against The Church at Planned Parenthood on Monday. The injunction stipulates the church group must move its services across the street from the facility and push back its service times so that they don’t coincide with the facility’s hours of operation. Pastor Ken Peters says the court order won’t stop them from meeting.
“Planned Parenthood, they might be able to, because of some leftist judge…they can push us over to the other side [of the street], but they’re not getting rid of us, we’re not going away,” Pastor Ken Peters said in a video to supporters following the judge’s decision.
Prior to the order, The Church at Planned Parenthood had been holding its services on the sidewalk and lawn adjacent to Spokane’s Planned Parenthood building. 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.”
Planned Parenthood Takes Legal Action
In June, Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Northern Idaho filed a suit against The Church at Planned Parenthood. On a fundraising page allowing sympathizers to contribute toward their legal fees, the church says “Planned Parenthood of Washington is suing our Church, School, and 5 of our pastors and leaders including Ken Peters, Matt Shea, Gabe Blomgren, Seth Haberman and Clay Roy. Help us fight back against Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood was represented by Legal Voice. In a press release about the suit, Legal Voice maintains the church is interfering with patients’ rights to receive medical care and the staff’s rights to provide care through their gatherings:
The group, which includes hundreds of participants, shouts and blasts music through enormous loudspeakers just feet away from where patients are receiving care, with the goal of harassing and intimidate [sic] patients and staff. In so doing, the group has repeatedly violated Spokane City municipal code and a Washington state law that prohibits willfully or recklessly disrupting the normal functioning of a health care facility by “making noise that unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.”
In its suit, Legal Voice says the group started with around 100 participants, but that number has grown to several hundred since they started meeting outside the facility in 2018. They believe as many as 700 people have shown up at one time. In fact, the suit says the group is so large that police involvement is necessary: “TCAPP [The Church at Planned Parenthood] protests are so massive and pose such risk that the police arrive early in the morning on protest days to set up a large, bright orange police barricade along East Indiana Avenue where TCAPP gathers.”
Additionally, the suit alleges that The Church at Planned Parenthood’s leader, Ken Peters, has indicated some in the group are carrying firearms:
Ken Peters pays lip service during his “sermons” to the idea that his followers should be peaceful. Outside of the presence of the press and the police, however, he warns that the group is well-armed. On January 10, 2020, Mr. Peters told the crowd at an event hosted by the Covenant Church entitled “Exposing Leftism . . . Push Back Rally,” “[the police] mentioned that they came and talked to me and said that at The Church at Planned Parenthood, they complained to me, they said did you know that four or five of your guys have guns? I said, trust me when I say this, way more than four or five, way more, way more, and thank god.” The remark drew thunderous applause.
The suit also expresses concern over Matt Shea’s involvement with the church. Shea, a Representative in the Washington State legislature, was involved in the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, according to an independent report commissioned by the Washington State House of Representatives. Legal Voice’s suit claims the staff at Planned Parenthood are particularly concerned Shea’s involvement could lead to violent actions on the part of those gathered for the church services.