Sean Everton

Patriot Churches


 2018:  “The Church at Planned Parenthood” began holding monthly worship services outside Planned Parenthood in Spokane, Washington.

2020:  Ken Peters and his wife, Valencia, founded the first Patriot Church (Campus) in Knoxville (Lenoir City), Tennessee. It was followed by churches (campuses) in Spokane, Washington (Peters’s previous church), and Lynchburg, Virginia, joining the movement.

2021:  Moses Lake Covenant Church in Washington became a Patriot Church.

2022:  Campuses in Houston (Magnolia, Texas) and Orlando, Florida, opened and held their first worship services.


Ken Peters is a fifth-generation preacher who started Covenant Church in 1998 at a Super 8 Motel in Spokane, Washington, along with his wife, Valencia. [Image at right] He spent twenty-one years serving as the church’s pastor. He also started the Covenant Christian School with campuses next to his church in Spokane and its sister church in Moses Lake, Washington.

In October of 2018, Peters and members of Covenant Church in Spokane, Washington, began holding monthly worship services on a lawn outside of the local Planned Parenthood (Lea 2019), calling itself “The Church at Planned Parenthood (TCAPP).” The experience, at least in part, inspired Peters and his wife, Valencia, to start the Patriot Church movement. Peters was also motivated by his belief that the U.S. is moving away from its Christian origins, and President Trump played an inspirational role:

I think Trump exposed some of the silent culture war that was going on. When he came into the presidency, I think he exposed what was happening underneath. And so I think President Trump was a part of me establishing this movement called Patriot Church (Gilbert 2021).

In September of 2020, Peters founded the first Patriot church/campus in Knoxville (Lenoir City), Tennessee, where he is the pastor. Peters chose Knoxville in response to encouragement from his friend, Greg Locke, a pastor of theGlobal Vision Bible Church near Nashville and an advisor to President Trump (Bailey 2020; Kuznia and Kamp 2021). Locke also donated $20,000 to the movement because he believes Christians are in a war with the government. “They have us cowered down in a basement with our masks and require our churches to be closed… That’s not Christian or American. We’re in the fight for our life” (Bailey 2020).

When Peters left for Tennessee, he chose Matt Shea to take over his church in Spokane. Shea is a former Washington State representative, who the Washington House of Representatives accused of domestic terrorism:

Independent investigators commissioned by the Washington State House of Representatives found that Shea, as a leader of the Patriot Movement, “planned, engaged in, and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States government” between 2014 and 2016… The report also concluded that Shea was involved in training young people to fight a “holy war.” He created a pamphlet called Biblical Basis for War and advocated replacing the government with a theocracy and “the killing of all males who do not agree” (Romo 2019).

Shea has ties with Ammon Bundy, the anti-government activist who led the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 (Bailey 2020). Shea also has ties to the Patriot Movement, but Peters says he has no connections to it or any other anti-government militant groups. Shea’s tenure at Covenant Church was short-lived, however. He and Peters had a falling-out in 2021, the details of which are unknown (Vestal 2021).

Twenty people followed Peters from Spokane to Knoxville (Bailey 2020), including (apparently) Iranian-born Shahram Hadian, a former Muslim who is the founder of “The Truth in Love Project” (2022) and a former candidate for governor in the state of Washington in 2012.

Unsurprisingly, Peters’s former church in Spokane joined the movement, and a third church was founded in Lynchburg (Bedford), Virginia, in 2020. In 2021, Moses Lake Covenant Church joined, and a Houston campus in Magnolia, Texas, reportedly opened in 2022. According to a Facebook post, a campus in Orlando, Florida, will also open in 2022. [Image at right]

The Patriot Church movement describes itself as “a spiritually active, governmentally engaged and grassroots effort designed to take back our communities from tyranny.” It believes that demonic forces are attacking “the cultural and religious fabric that makes the USA so special.” It contends that these forces reflect Marxist leanings as evidenced by their call for open borders, ending racism, and the redistribution of wealth. As such, the movement argues that Christians are called by God “to resist [this] tyranny wherever it exists” (Patriot Church 2022c).

The movement first attracted national attention after an article about them appeared in the Washington Post (Bailey 2020). It can be seen as part of the much larger Christian nationalism movement, a loosely-connected network of churches and organizations that believe the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation and that they are called to restore the U.S. to its Christian roots (Stewart 2020; Whitehead and Perry 2020). Peters does not refer to himself as a Christian nationalist (Bailey 2020), but he does not appear to entirely reject the term either:

Christian nationalist is such a — it has really bad vibes to it, if you will. It sounds horrible. But if you want to break it down, yes, I’m a Christian. And yes, I love my nation. And I’d rather be a Christian nationalist than a secular globalist. You know, I hate the term because it just sounds like a racist, or mean or evil. But it’s not. It’s just — I’m a Christian. I love my country (Kuznia and Kamp 2021).

Along with Greg Locke, Peters identifies with the Black Robe Regiment, a group of influential eighteenth-century American clergy who reportedly lent their support to the American revolution. “They led their congregations in the American Revolution. It is now our turn to preserve what they so bravely fought to create. NOT violently, but peacefully by leveraging our vote and influence” (Patriot Church 2022c). It is worth noting that the regiment is more legend than fact. “No one at the time spoke of a black robe regiment… the phrase is a modification of an insult used by the Loyalist Peter Oliver years after the Revolution. Oliver, who had lost home and position, denigrated New England ministers opposed to royal authority as a ‘black regiment.’ The very usage of the term black robe regiment is itself a misquotation” (den Hartog 2021).

Peters backed the “Stop the Steal” movement and, along with Greg Locke, spoke at a rally in Washington D.C. the day before the U.S. Capitol was breached by Trump supporters (Kuznia and Kamp 2021). He flew there on a private jet owned by Michael Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, Inc., an ardent Trump supporter. Peters also attended Trump’s rally the day of the riot and was visibly disappointed when Vice President Pence certified President Biden’s election (Leslie 2021). Although Peters did not participate in the riot, he did watch from afar. He has since condemned the violence (Kuznia and Kamp 2021).


Patriot churches hold beliefs typically associated with conservative Protestant movements. For example, they affirm a belief in the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirt), the Virgin Birth, the physical Resurrection of Jesus, that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God, Original Sin, that Jesus’s crucifixion atones for the sins of individuals who repent and believe, the Second Coming, and eternal life for believers and eternal damnation for unbelievers.

The Patriot movement also reflects the influence of the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. In particular, it affirms the sanctification of believers and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After someone becomes a believer, it holds that “there is a gradual or progressive sanctification as the believer walks with God and daily grows in grace and in a more perfect obedience to God.” This continues for the rest of one’s life or until Christ’s return. Like other Pentecostal groups, the Patriot movement believes that the Holy Spirit continues to act as it did at the first Pentecost (i.e., fifty days after Christ’s resurrection), and thus acts of healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues continue to occur and are available to the sanctified. This puts them at odds with many theologically conservative Protestant groups, specifically those who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased being available with the Apostolic Age (i.e., the end of the first century when the last of Jesus’s twelve disciples died). Patriot churches believe that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s gifts need to be evaluated in terms of whether they edify the church “and not by the ecstasy produced in the ones receiving them.”

Patriot churches also hold that “man’s” purpose is to glorify God through one’s obedience to God. Individuals need to “order all their individual, social and political acts as to give to God entire and absolute obedience, and to assure to all the enjoyment of every natural right, as well as to promote the fulfillment of each in the possession and exercise of such rights.” Central to this understanding of obedience, is the belief that the only appropriate expression of human sexuality is “a monogamous lifelong relationship between one man and one woman within the framework of marriage.” It sees “sexual relationships outside of marriage and sexual relationships between persons of the same sex [as] immoral and sinful.”

Patriot churches are pro-life. They believe that America could lose favor in God’s sight if Roe v. Wade is not overturned, and they promote the work of TCAPP. Peters, in fact, founded a TCAPP in Tennessee that meets across the street from Knoxville’s Planned Parenthood. It held its inaugural service on December 29, 2020. The following January, “on the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision — a man with a shotgun… [blasted] …the front door of the clinic before it opened for the day” (Kuznia and Kamp 2021). Police have not identified the shooter, and there is no evidence that he attended the TCAPP service. Peters believes that the media unfairly linked him to the attack. “The wonderful mainstream media and news reporters try to tie me to that, which is horrible. I would never — I’m a pastor. I’m a pastor’s kid. I have four children. I am the most nonviolent person on the planet” (Kuznia and Kamp 2021).

Perhaps, but Peters does not shy away from using militant language, and he believes that a civil war may be coming, one that will be “a battle of good versus evil where they fight back against what they see as the tyranny of the left.”

If the truth is suppressed and covered up, then that ultimately will lead to violence. It could end up bad, you know, a lot of things end up rough and violent. We hope it doesn’t, but we can’t be so afraid of a violent outcome that we allow the left to cheat their way to destroying this country (Gilbert 2021).

Patriot churches oppose LGBTQ rights, arguing that they are unbiblical and against God’s will for human sexuality (Patriot Church 2022b). They are also critical of the 1619 Project (New York Times Magazine 2019) and critical race theory, contending that both “falsely characterize white or conservative Americans as racists.” They also believe that religious freedom is under attack and that it is their duty to resist it. For example, they complain that although churches were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, “many bars and big-box stores remained open. Pastors and parishioners were fined for worshipping during a pandemic that had a 99.8% recovery rate” (Patriot Church 2022c).


Patriot churches worship weekly on Sundays and practice baptism by immersion in water and the Lord’s Supper. Like many churches, they hold special events featuring guest speakers. They also have a small group ministry, which they see as vital to the community’s life. In March of 2022, they held a men’s Bible camp in Cusick, Washington. [Image at right]

Patriot churches seem to focus their political efforts on city and county governments, school boards, law enforcement agencies, and the like: “Sheriffs, Mayors, City and County Council members and Commissioners, School Boards and Judges need to be reminded to honor their oath of office. If they refuse, we must run against them in the next election and defeat them!” The movement’s goal is to use Patriot churches to “create 5,000 sanctuary cities and counties that outlaw abortion and [critical race theory] and protect our God given rights. They will rebuke the evil mandates that will be coming from State and Federal Governments”

This is not to suggest that Patriot churches are uninterested in national politics. They are. Passionately. National issues are front and center in their worship services (Leslie 2021), and they regularly express support for former President Donald Trump. For instance, when Sarah Bailey (2020) visited Peters’s church in Knoxville, after worship, Peters and his family headed to a nearby highway overpass where they waved huge American and Trump flags at passing cars. More recently (February 26, 2022), the Facebook page of the Knoxville church posted a video of the former President referring to himself as “your President” along with the comment, presumably written by Ken Peters: “I love this Moment! Trump sounds like he said he’s our President now. The people went nuts. He’s my true President.” Peters, in fact, believes that Trump will return to the White House before Biden’s term is up:

Very soon the whole country is going to find out that Trump actually won, and he’s actually the legitimate president of the United States. We’ll see Trump back in the White House before Biden’s four-year term is done (Gilbert 2021).


The movement is a network of churches that affirm its beliefs and agree with its political activism. [Image at right] The leadership structure is sparse, with Peters sitting at its head (Patriot Church 2022a). It is difficult to separate the Patriot Church movement from Peters’s beliefs and actions. He clearly drives what the Patriot churches believe and do. Given that he essentially fired Matt Shea as the pastor of the Spokane church, it appears that Peters has “veto rights” on who pastors Patriot churches. Only time will tell whether the movement takes on a life of its own that can survive without Peters’s inspiration and influence.

It is probably a mistake to equate the Patriot Church movement with “white” Christian nationalism, at least demographically. Although from its webpage and Facebook posts, it appears that most members are white, people of color do attend, and at least one of its pastors is Hispanic (Ben DeJesus of the Houston campus). More importantly, white Americans are not the only ones who affirm Christian Nationalist views. Consider, for example, the following figure. [Image at right] Drawing on the same data used by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry (2020) to construct a Christian nationalism scale, the graph plots the average score on the scale by race/ethnicity. As it shows, other racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Black, Latinx) score higher than white Americans.

Instead of race and ethnicity, theological conservatism appears to be a primary driver of Christian nationalism beliefs. The figure below captures this relationship. It plots the average Christian nationalism score Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5 (2017)by religious tradition. As one can see, White evangelical Protestants, Black Protestants, and Roman Catholics score highest among religious traditions. Importantly, these associations hold after controlling for other potentially confounding factors (multivariate results available upon request (See also, Whitehead and Perry 2020:179-10)).

One can get a sense of the movement’s priorities from the questions that appear on the application to join the movement located on the Patriot Church website (Patriot Church 2022d):

What is the name of your church?What is the name of the pastor of the church?
What is your denominational affiliation if any?
How many members are in your church?
Average Sunday Attendance Pre-Pandemic?Average Sunday Attendance Now?
Is your church accredited by ECFA? (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)
Percent of congregation that is conservative?
Does your church do voter registration?
Is the pastor politically active?
How does your church create community influence?
Does the church partner with other churches to create political influence?


Perhaps the most critical issue facing the Patriot Church movement is growth. There are currently only between four and six churches affiliated with it. That said, a significant portion of the American population is sympathetic to Christian nationalist beliefs it espouses. For instance, Whitehead and Perry (2020) sorted Americans into four categories based on a Christian nationalism index based on six survey questions: Ambassadors, Accommodators, Resisters, and Rejecters. Ambassadors are “wholly supportive of Christian nationalism” (2020:35). Accommodators lean toward the belief “that the federal government should advocate for Christian values,” but they are “undecided about the federal government officially declaring the United States is a Christian nation” (2020:33). Resisters “lean toward opposing Christian nationalism” but “may be undecided about allowing the display of religious symbols in public places” (2020:31). And Rejectors “generally believe there should be no connection between Christianity and politics” (2020:26). Whitehead and Perry found that Ambassadors account for 19.8% of Americans, while Accommodators account for 32.1 percent. In other words, approximately 52 percent of Americans express some support for Christian nationalism. This suggests that the target audience of the Patriot Church movement is potentially quite large.

That said, the political activism of Patriot Churches is somewhat out of step of other theologically conservative churches. Analyses of the National Congregation Survey found that unlike Roman Catholic and Black Protestant congregations, which engage in a wide array of political activities, theologically conservative churches tend not to (Beyerlein and Chaves 2003, 2020; Everton 2021). Peters believes this is because most evangelical pastors are afraid to speak up:

I think most preachers are weak and spineless, and they should be leading the Girl Scouts and not being behind pulpits. I think today is the day where we need preachers with a backbone, with the courage to say what we believe, the foundation of our nation was based on Judeo-Christian values, and we let that slip away, I think much in part because of spineless, weak, and fearful cowardly preachers (Gilbert 2021).

However, Pentecostal churches tend to be more politically active than evangelical ones. Take, for instance, the following figure, which plots the political activism of U.S. congregations by religious tradition from 1998 to 2018. [Image at right] Political activism is the aggregate of eight activities (See, Everton 2021 and Beyerlein and Chaves 2003, 2020. Unlike Beyerlein and Chaves (2003, 2020), it separates Pentecostal congregations into their own category. As it shows, Pentecostal churches have consistently been more active than evangelical ones. This was especially true in 2018 when over fifty percent of Pentecostal churches engaged in one or more political activities. Thus, given the Patriot Church’s Pentecostal leanings, its political activism may find a larger audience than a typical theologically conservative congregation.

Damon Berry’s (2020) analysis of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) may be of relevance here. The NAR is a network of independent Pentecostal leaders and churches that believe that the New Testament office of apostle is still operative today and that God is calling on believers to establish God’s kingdom on earth. An “apostle” is seen as someone “whom God has called for the work of ‘planting and overseeing new churches,’ who demonstrates a prophetic anointing confirmed by ‘a word from the Lord,’ approved by the congregation for the position, and who exhibits godly character and spiritual maturity” (Berry 2020:74). Many involved with the NAR believe that God has anointed Trump to help accomplish this. Furthermore, they believe “that Trump’s political adversaries [are] inspired by demonic spirits under the guidance of the Devil to destroy Trump and the United States, and thereby prevent the full realization of the Kingdom of God on Earth (Berry 2020:71-72).” Berry calls those aligned with the NAR “prophecy voters” and distinguishes them from “nostalgic voters” (e.g., white Christian nationalists) and “values voters” (e.g., those who support Trump because of his pro-life policies). Although there does not appear to be an explicit tie between the Patriot Church movement and the NAR, Matt Shea, who, as noted earlier, briefly took over for Ken Peters’s former church in Spokane, does. He and Tim Taylor, an apostle in the NAR, are acquaintances and see themselves as fellow patriots. “I liked Matt right away… He is an army officer, a combat veteran, an attorney and a Christian… I remember the oath I took to defend the constitution [sic] of these United States and from watching him over the last three years, I’d say he remembered that oath too” (quoted in Clarkson and Cooper 2021).


Image #1: Ken and Valencia Peters.
Image #2: The Patriot Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Image #3: Christian Nationalist Views by race/ethnicity. Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5 (2017).
Image #4: Christian Nationalism Views by religious conservatism. Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5 (2017).
Image #5: Political activism of U.S. congregations by religious tradition from 1998 to 2018. National Congregations Survey, 1998-2018 (Chaves et al. 2020).


1619 Project. 2019. New York Times Magazine, August 14. Accessed from on 10 March 2022.

Bailey, Sarah Pulliam. 2020. “Seeking Power in Jesus’ Name: Trump Sparks a Rise of Patriot Churches.” The Washington Post, October 26. Accessed from on 13 November  2020.

Baylor University. 2017. The Baylor Religion Survey, Wave V. Waco, TX: Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion: data downloaded from the Association of Religion Data Archives,

Berry, Damon. 2020. “Voting in the Kingdom: Prophecy Voters, the New Apostolic Reformation, and Christian Support for Trump.” Nova Religio 23:69-93.

Beyerlein, Kraig, and Mark Chaves. 2020. “The Political Mobilization of America’s Congregations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59:663-74.

Beyerlein, Kraig, and Mark Chaves. 2003. “The Political Activities of Religious Congregations in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42:229-46.

Chaves, Mark, Shawna Anderson, Alison Eagle, Mary  Hawkins, Anna Holleman, and Joseph Roso. 2020. National Congregations Study: Cumulative Data File and Codebook. Durham, NC: Duke University: data downloaded from the Association of Religion Data Archives,

Clarkson, Frederick, and Cloee Cooper. 2021. “Convergence of Far-Right, Anti-Democratic Factions in the Northwest Could Provide a Model for the Rest of the Nation.” Religion Dispatches. Accessed from on 28 February 2022.

den Hartog, Jonathan. 2021. “What the Black Robe Regiment Misses About Revolutionary Pastors.” Christianity Today, January 20. Accessed from on 7 March 2022.

Everton, Sean F. 2021. “For God and Country: The Political Activism of Religious Congregations in the United States.” SSRN. Accessed from on 7 March 2022.

Gilbert, David. 2021. “These Pastors Are Telling People Trump Is Still President and Are Ready for War.” Vice News, October 25. Accessed from on 7 March 2022.

Kuznia, Rob, and Majlie de Puy Kamp. 2021. “Assault on Democracy: Paths to Insurrection: The Pastors.” CNN, June. Accessed from on 1 March 2022.

Lea, Jessica. 2019. “The Church at Planned Parenthood? Yes, You Read That Right.” ChurchLeaders, April 26. Accessed from on 13 November 2020.

Leslie, Robert. 2021. “We Went Inside the Tennessee church Whose Trump-Revering Pastor Combines Politics with Christian Nationalism.” Insider, May 10. Accessed from on 7 March 2022.

Patriot Church. 2022a. Leadership. Accessed from on 28 February 2022.

Patriot Church. 2022b. Our Beliefs. Accessed from on 1 March 2022.

Patriot Church. 2022c. Patriot Network. Accessed from on 1 March 2022.

Patriot Church. 2022d. Patriot Network Signup. Accessed from on 4 March 2022.

Romo, Vanessa. 2019. “Washington Legislator Matt Shea Accused Of ‘Domestic Terrorism,’ Report Finds.” National Public Radio, December 20. Accessed from on 2 March 2022.

Stewart, Katherine. 2020. The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Truth in Love Ministry. 2022. Truth in Love Project. Accessed from on 1 March 2022.

Vestal, Shawn. 2021. “Matt Shea Out At Church Over Schism with Fellow ‘General’ Ken Peters, but Abortion Protests Go On.” Spokesman-Review, May 27. Accessed from on 2 March 2022.

Whitehead, Andrew L., and Samuel L. Perry. 2020. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Publication Date:
12 March 2022