Is there a religious element to the most extreme political movements in the Pacific Northwest? Absolutely.
That was recently reinforced by a legislative report released in Washington State concerning Rep. Matt Shea. He is a Spokane attorney who has been elected six times to the Washington House of Representatives.
In Idaho, there has been some coverage of Rep. Heather Scott’s involvement with Shea. Scott has avoided responding to media inquiries on the report, but has posted a link on her Facebook page to an article defending her on the Redoubt News website (more about that in a bit).
The report claimed that Shea had repeatedly advanced domestic terrorism. As a consequence, House Republicans stripped him of his committee positions and the Republican leader asked for his resignation.
One of the odder sections of the report is the following:
- On August 5 and 6, 2016, a meeting was held at Shea’s Spokane office.
- Attendees included Shea, Rep. Heather Scott, a Nevada state representative, the Washington leader of the extremist III% group and three pastors.
- Shea distributed a 4-page manifesto entitled “Biblical Basis for War” which called for “killing all males” who supported abortion, same sex marriage and refused to follow biblical law. Also, he specified that “killing tyrants is just, not murder”.
- He also presented to the group a document called “Restoration” that called for forming a theocratic government, including:
- Militia-based military
- Fire all local law enforcement
- Liaison with gangs who have honor
- Establish “Patriot” banks
- Repeal all taxes and non-criminal laws and regulations
- Transfer of public lands to private homesteaders
- Revise U.S. Constitution to sanctify Jesus Christ
That three public officials would participate in a meeting featuring such material is frightening in itself. To justify murder of those one disagrees with on religious grounds is even worse.
But, there is more to this kind of extremism. Many, including Rep. Scott, are part of the so-called Redoubt movement. The Redoubt movement seeks to create a “retreat” for Christian conservatives in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Washington and Oregon. Jews would be allowed in, also. The purpose of this retreat is to provide a refuge after the world falls apart solely for those who embrace hard right ideology and can pass the proponents’ religious test. It is a concept that the Founders would find alien to the American ideal. But, supporters think the United States is the real enemy and have no problem envisioning a geographic area where their opponents are excluded.
This is not the first time that religion has been merged with political extremism in the Pacific Northwest.
The most famous example was Richard Butler, a vocal racist who had a compound in North Idaho for the Aryan Nations, part of the Christian identity movement. After a lawsuit resulted in the land being placed in the hands of an Idaho Falls philanthropist it was reconfigured as a human rights center.
Another was Bo Gritz, a former presidential candidate (his slogan was “Guns, God and Gritz”) who created a community near Kamiah known as “Almost Heaven”, a religious-oriented retreat for those who wanted to gather to prepare for the apocalypse. He at one point joined the LDS church and then left when he found it required its members to be honest in their payment of federal taxes.
Many political activists, on both sides of the spectrum, embrace religious belief, but it can be a toxic brew when mixed with extreme politics and wielded as a weapon. For some odd reason, the Pacific Northwest seems to be ground zero for the most bizarre forms of such mixing.