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Fri Jan 14, 2022, 01:23 AM

A Planned Parenthood Was Burned Down. This Is Just the Latest in Knoxville's War Over Abortion

As the ruins of the Knoxville Planned Parenthood smoldered in the background, vocal Pastor Ken Peters, a prominent anti-abortion figure, spoke to a reporter from the local ABC affiliate. “This is not gonna stop abortion,” he told them. “It’s the changing of hearts and minds, it’s the changing of laws. This might temporarily halt abortion, but this doesn’t stop it. We just pray that nobody was hurt and that who whoever did this is caught and prosecuted, and we pray that abortion would stop right here in the state of Tennessee.”

This past New Year’s Eve, less than one year after a gunman shot out the glass doors of the Planned Parenthood in Knoxville, Tennessee, the entire clinic burned to the ground in the midst of a $2.2 million renovation and expansion project. (No one was injured.) Investigators from the Knoxville Fire Department have ruled it an intentional fire — an arson, started by a person or persons who, just like the gunman, have yet to be identified. As investigators continue putting together the pieces, abortion rights activists can’t help but wonder: Did the rhetoric of Pastor Peters’s extreme anti-abortion church literally help stoke the flames?

Pastor Ken Peters started The Church at Planned Parenthood (TCAPP) in Spokane, Washington in 2018 as a program put on by his Patriot Church to stir up anti-abortion and Christian nationalist senitment in the area. “It’s a worship service at the gates of Hell,” the group states on its website, but in reality it’s a monthly anti-abortion protest. At these services across from the local clinic, Peters and special guests preach the evils of abortion, call up people for testimonials, and sing religious songs.

Peters tells Rolling Stone TCAPP had no involvement in the fire, nor does he believe that his organization should be implicated, either. “We have never, ever endorsed or been proponents of anything illegal,” he says. “We’re just exercising our first amendment right to peaceful assembly, and praying and singing. Any accusation praying and singing could end up in arson, and speaking for the lives of the unborn could end up in criminal activity is just preposterous.”

Read more: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/knoxville-planned-parenthood-fire-arson-1280947/

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