The opening of the Washington legislative session has intensified the debate about whether Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) should be allowed to continue serving in the state House. No determination about his future as an elected official has been made yet.
Shea has been the subject of some rather sharp debate in the Spokane City Council’s public forums during the last two weeks.
Last week’s forum began with a complaint by Kim Schmidt about the tactics used by abortion opponents who gather periodically outside the Spokane Planned Parenthood clinic.
“How would you feel if you were walking into Kaiser or Sacred Heart or any of the other hospitals around for a regular screening such as a colonoscopy, which is a service that Planned Parenthood provides, and were greeted by a group of protestors, maybe religious extremists even, using megaphones, gory signs and the threat of fire and brimstone in an attempt to deter you from using the health care facility?” Schmidt asked.
The next speaker, Tom Robinson, noted Representative Matt Shea’s appearance at one of the gatherings in December. He referenced the allegations about Shea’s involvement in domestic terrorism in a recent report commissioned by the state House. Given that, Robinson asked the council to consider doing more to ensure the safety of people who use Planned Parenthood’s services.
“These protests are right in the middle of Spokane. They’re during business hours that Planned Parenthood is operating and these people are showing up with guns," Robinson said.
“Doesn’t the church (that gathers outside) Planned Parenthood have freedom of religion and freedom of speech? Yes. But freedom of speech doesn’t protect speech that incites violence and freedom of religion does not protect against domestic terrorism," said Nicolette Ocheltree.
The rhetoric that included the mention of Matt Shea got under the skin of George McGrath, a frequent speaker in the city council’s public forums.
“The idea that Matt Shea has promoted violence is absolutely ridiculous. Matt has promoted self sufficiency. He believes in the Second Amendment. He believes in the Constitution of the United States, as hopefully all of you do and apparently some of you don’t," McGrath said.
He says Shea is only guilty of working to protect unborn children.
Fast forward one week and several Shea defenders were first to defend his reputation and his political views. Many addressed the allegations in the report to the legislature. One man, whose name we didn't record, discounted its findings.
“The Rampart Group report has maliciously called Matt a domestic terrorist for standing with the Bundys in a federal land grab. For rallying to the defense of an old veteran whose guns were being unlawfully confiscated," he said.
That was a reference to a 2015 gathering in which Shea and dozens of others went to the home of a Priest River man from where the Veterans Administration wanted to remove firearms. According to the report, a health care professional considered the man no longer eligible to buy firearms. Shea and others viewed it as an unconstitutional gun seizure.
A man and his wife who said they were there say it was peaceful and law-abiding event and that it’s ridiculous to tar Shea with the domestic terrorist label.
No determination has been made yet about Shea’s future in the Washington State House of Representatives, where he has served since 2009.