The Church at Planned Parenthood has the support of at least nine Washington state churches. It also has controversial links.
It was founded by Covenant Church of Spokane, then pastored by former state Rep. Matt Shea, who now heads On Fire Ministries in Spokane, the newspaper The Spokesman-Review reported.
Shea was suspended from the Washington State House Republican Caucus after a December 2019 report that accused him of “engaging in an act of domestic terrorism” for planning, promoting, and engaging in political violence against the U.S. government from 2014–2016, according to CNN. The incidents included support for the Bundy Ranch standoff against FBI agents in a conflict over grazing rights.
Ripplinger, however, said church attendees are respectful of the law. She told CNA she had attended one Church at Planned Parenthood event several years ago.
“I saw firsthand that this group abides by the law,” she said. “They are on public property and very courteous to anyone. They meet in the evenings after hours, so there’s no disruption to the business whatsoever. I saw that firsthand. They’re extremely polite to pedestrians.”
According to Ripplinger, the gathering she saw had crowd control practices in place to ensure compliance with rules.
The Church at Planned Parenthood initially met on a sidewalk and strip of grass alongside the south wall of the abortion clinic. A court order in September 2020 said the church could only gather across the street, but Planned Parenthood said this order was routinely violated, according to KXLY News. In September 2021, a judge barred the church and its members from gathering anywhere within 35 feet of the clinic and from making noise between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Before the legal action and internal splits, the church drew as many as 500 attendees.
Father Darrin Connall, vicar general for the Diocese of Spokane, told CNA he thought the fines seemed “excessive and punitive,” though he was unfamiliar with what laws were broken.
He questioned whether the Church at Planned Parenthood had the best approach.
“The Christian world isn’t united on the best way to protest the taking of unborn human life, so I can’t say if Catholics would be united with their approach or not,” the priest said. “But we certainly would have obeyed the law and if the law needed to be changed, [we’d] work to change the law through the system, rather than rather than breaking it.”
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“We in the diocese organize peaceful protests in support of human life regularly,” the vicar general said.
Connall, who is also rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, said a group of parishioners goes to an abortion clinic once a week and prays the rosary outside while obeying the law.
He said the Catholic Church would emphasize prayer, “begging God to bring about a deeper and greater respect for the sanctity of all human life.”
He also noted Catholic Bishop of Spokane Thomas Daly’s launch of the annual Walk for Life Northwest in downtown Spokane, now in its seventh year. According to Connall, this is a time “for people to come together for a public witness to what we believe about life in a very public way.”
Bishop Daly addressed the Walk for Life Northwest in Spokane on Jan. 22. About 2,000 people attended the event, the Spokane diocese newspaper Inland Catholic reported.