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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
June 7, 2023

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Anti-abortion church group holds first protest at Planned Parenthood since judge levied fine for interfering with patient care


SPOKANE — It was all smiles, hugs and happy reunions on one side of Indiana Avenue Tuesday night.

On the other, in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood, staff conferred with security and city code enforcement, awaiting the return of protesters across the street who have interfered with patient care for years.

An anti-abortion group known as the Church at Planned Parenthood held its first protest Tuesday since a judge fined the group for noise violations and other issues.

The protest was scheduled for 7 p.m. in an effort to comply with Spokane County Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Fennessy’s ruling that they cannot loudly gather just outside the doors of the clinic while patients remain inside.

The group paid nearly $1 million in legal fees and fines after a Spokane County judge ruled the group’s loud protests interfered with patient care, violating state law.

Ken Peters, a pastor, scheduled the protest across the street from Planned Parenthood an hour after it closes to make sure all patients have left the building in an effort to comply with the ruling, Peters told the Spokesman-Review last month.

However, setup for the event began before 6 p.m. Worship music could be heard drifting over the slowly growing crowd thirty minutes later.

Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, questioned whether that complies with the ruling. The clinic’s last patient left at 6:15 p.m., and staff remained in the building until 6:50 p.m. he said.

Gabe Blomgren, a pastor at On Fire Ministries, began singing over trucked-in speakers just after 7 p.m.

The 80 or so people in attendance joined in, raising their hands, closing their eyes and singing. Children waved signs that read, “Strong family, strong country” and, “It’s okay to like babies being born.”

The theme for Tuesday’s protest was not backing down, Peters said.

He mentioned the lawsuit before dismissing the ruling, calling Fennessy “a leftist.”

“We’re doing spiritual warfare,” he said.

Politics are a frequent topic in the church, with Peters advocating for and against politicians and specific legislation from the pulpit.

TCAPP was founded by Covenant Church, then pastored by former state Rep. Matt Shea and Peters. Shea split from the group and now leads On Fire Ministries in Spokane. Peters pastors Patriot Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Peters’ profile has grown in recent years due in part to his rising prominence in the Christian nationalist movement, whose followers believe the United States should uphold Christian values in government. Peters has spoken to CNN, NPR, the Washington Post and numerous other publications sharing his beliefs.

On Tuesday, Peters bragged that a master’s student from Norway working on his thesis googled Christian Nationalism and the second name to come up after another pastor was his. The student has spent the past two months following Peters for the project.

There was little counter-protest to Tuesday’s event, in part due to the local branch of Planned Parenthood’s policy that discourages engaging with anti-abortion groups.

“While we are grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and support we’ve seen across the region, our first priority is always to serve our patients,” the policy statement reads. “To that end, we ask our supporters not to counter-protest outside any of our health centers.”

Staff and volunteers at the clinic follow a “strict nonengagement policy.” The facility also has security, with guards present Tuesday night.

Tom Robinson, who runs an active Facebook group on local issues, held a sign reading “Ken Peters Loser.”

At one point, former Proud Boy William Hulings, who is a frequent speaker at Spokane City Council meetings, crossed the street to confront Robinson.

Spokane police, who were monitoring the scene, walked over and the conflict appeared to resolve quickly.

Hulings said if he continued to engage with Robinson, police told him he could be charged with disorderly conduct.

Most attendees appeared to know each other, chatting casually. Kelly Green, whose husband, Kenny Green, pastors the local church Family of Faith, said the judge’s ruling is “a little restrictive,” but the group will persevere.

The Greens have been running TCAPP Spokane since Peters’ move.

“I believe it’s not our right as women to kill our babies,” Green said.

She hopes one day the local Planned Parenthood will be turned into an adoption center, and that abortion will be illegal nationwide.

When Peters spoke to the crowd, it was a mixture of anger at the judge’s ruling and calls to continue with the push to outlaw all forms of abortion.

The ruling was “crazy, rigged-up, satanic stronghold corruption,” Peters said. “But guess what, everybody? We’re still here.”