It's been almost two years ago now since Pastor Ken Peters of Covenant Church in Spokane, Washington, says God spoke to him about where he should plant his church's next campus.
"I felt like the Lord say to me right in the middle of a church service, 'I want your next church campus to be the Planned Parenthood Campus'," Peters told the CBN News Prayer Link program last year.
A few months after that directive from above, the church known as The Church At Planned Parenthood (TCAPP) had its first gathering outside the Planned Parenthood building, after the abortion facility's business hours were over. Peters and members of his congregation host a full service there each month complete with a worship band and prayer teams, and bring a message of love and hope, as they say, "right to the gates of hell."
"We're aware of all the rules and doing our best to stay within those, so the police are definitely there," Peters said. "They're watching. But we tell them we're not there to cause trouble. We're there to worship God. We're there to pray. We're there to preach the gospel," Peters told Prayer Link.
But now, even though TCAPP's services take place after Planned Parenthood closes for the day, Planned Parenthood is fighting to shut down the church that meets there. The nation's largest and richest abortion provider is suing Covenant Church and five area pastors for noise violations and for allegedly harming patients, something Pastor Peters vehemently denies.
"You have a billion-dollar industry suing local church pastors that aren't wealthy at all, for singing and peaceably assembly," Pastor Peters told Fox News.
"We've been running for two years. We've never been cited. We don't cause destruction. We don't loot. We don't riot. We literally go to Planned Parenthood and we hold church once a month," Peters explained. "We do this after hours. We are not causing any harm."
The church is trying to mount a legal defense fund to fight the charges from Planned Parenthood.
Seems this past March, though, the Spokane City Council, packed as Peters says with abortion advocates, passed a new noise ordinance long after TCAPP held its first service. According to Fox, Planned Parenthood has been monitoring the noise levels at TCAPP's meetings. Peters says his gathering has even lowered their decibels in an effort to comply and is willing to start services even later in the evening long after the end of Planned Parenthood's business day. He says it's clear what's going on here.
"We are bringing attention to the fact that they are killing life for money," Peters said. "That's what they don't like. That's what they're suing us for. We are shining a light for the Lord and on their sin and that's what they hate us (for)."
So can a local noise ordinance be used to deny religious believers the right to "peaceably assemble" and the right to freely exercise their religion guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution?
A Planned Parenthood spokesman told Fox the hundreds who gather for The Church At Planned Parenthood "can call themselves whatever they want (but) in no way, shape or form is this a church." In addition, Planned Parenthood claimed to TV station KREM that "TCAPP and its loud mob of angry protesters" are disrupting the "vital medical care" given at the abortion clinic, and because of that can't claim protection under the First Amendment.
Whether it's possible to disrupt the abortion business after it's shut down for the day may have to be argued in court. But on its website, TCAPP makes clear it is NOT a protest, but "a gathering of Christians for the worship of God and corporate prayer for repentance for this nation, repentance for the apathetic church, and repentance for our blood-guiltiness in this abortion holocaust."
"We don't do anything but pray, preach, and give," Peters said.
The controversy raises some important questions legally, and certainly for Christian believers... like what is the church? Is it the building in which it is housed? And should religious believers be forced to keep their worship contained within that building? What is worship? Is it only praying and singing hymns, or is it living a life that touches the lives of others and shows God's love in every aspect of life?
The Bible teaches that the church is the Body of Jesus Christ, made up of many members, with distinct gifts and abilities, but all focused on spreading the Gospel of Jesus for the transformation of individuals who are to be "salt and light" in a society that itself needs transformation, all for the glory of God. Nowhere does it say the church is a brick and mortar building, but an organism made up of believers it calls in 1 Peter 2:5 "living stones," commissioned to take with them the Gospel of salvation through Jesus wherever they go with the crucified and resurrected Jesus Himself at their Head. (See 1st Corinthians 12, the book of Ephesians, Colossians 1:18 and 1:24 in the New Testament). In addition, in the book of Matthew, Jesus appears to describe an active and powerful church busy reclaiming territory dominated by evil when He tells the apostle Peter that the "gates of hell" would not prevail against His church.
With that in mind - despite the lawsuit - The Church At Planned Parenthood's next service is set to be held on August 18 with Tennessee Pastor Greg Locke as the speaker.
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