On a day when thousands of pro-life supporters in hundreds of cities across the country joined hands in praying for an end to Planned Parenthood abortions, Bishop Richard F. Stika joined the pastors of two Protestant churches in leading an ecumenical prayer service for the sanctity of life in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Knoxville.
Diocese of Knoxville faithful, led by Bishop Stika, Pastor Cecil Clark of True Vine Baptist Church in East Knoxville and Pastor Ral Waltower of True Gospel Christian Church in Macon, Ga., were among more than 400 pro-life supporters who took part Aug. 22 in the prayer service that drew attention to Planned Parenthood’s practices.
The prayer service also occurred less than a day after an eighth video was released by the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life organization that has filmed Planned Parenthood leaders discussing the harvesting and sale of organs from aborted babies. The videos have reignited national debate on the legality of abortions.
The Knoxville pro-life demonstration, held in front of Planned Parenthood’s clinic at 710 N. Cherry St., was one of hundreds of similar events held in more than 300 cities in 47 states.
Men, women and children from various faith communities prayed during the Knoxville service, sang with spiritual vocalists The Blue Brothers, and heard remarks from Bishop Stika, Pastor Clark, Pastor Waltower, Fletcher Armstrong, who is the Southeast director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and Brenda Lenard, who is with True Vine Baptist Church.
People attending the prayer service lined both sides of Washington Avenue at Cherry Street in front of Planned Parenthood’s clinic. Knoxville Police Department officers were on hand to control traffic.
In his remarks, Bishop Stika began by asking the diverse crowd if they knew how much they were worth. And with a little help from Pastor Clark, Bishop Stika pointed out that everyone is worth the price Jesus paid — His life — so that all would have life.
“When we see these videos, we see that a heart might be worth $75; or a brain is very valuable. Make sure the baby is born and then they’ll take the brain,” Bishop Stika said, referring to the videos. “But you are worth the price of Jesus, for He gave His life for all people.”
Bishop Stika told the hundreds listening that the creation of life is not a choice but a gift from God.
“Who will speak for the innocent — a baby that feels pain, a baby, like all of us, in the womb that we call a fetus but is a child of God?” Bishop Stika asked. “That’s why we’re here today, drawn together, people of different color, different language, and different faith, but we’re united in Jesus.”
Pointing to the Planned Parenthood clinic behind him, Bishop Stika said what happens there is not a clinical procedure but is evil. He also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion is similar to the landmark Dred Scott decision in 1857, where the court held that all African-Americans could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing in federal court.
Declaring that every life is sacred to God, regardless of legal status and national or community standards, the bishop said all life is to be protected from conception to natural death. He pointed out that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger espoused eugenics – limiting births by those least able to afford children: the poor and underprivileged.
Pastor Clark challenged all Christians and all pastors to do more to bring an end to abortion.
“If we’re going to shut Planned Parenthood down and get rid of this evil institution, we’re going to have to come together,” Pastor Clark said. “If this is sin, then we all ought to be involved in it (ending abortion). This is evil, this killing of babies. We’ve been looking away until they started selling body parts. If we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be something else. And that something else is going to be the old folk — they’re going to be killing us. Sin is just like a cancer, it spreads if you don’t do something about it.”
The pro-life prayer service ended with Pastor Clark, Pastor Waltower and Bishop Stika leading the hundreds in singing “We Shall Overcome,” as all held hands in front of the clinic.