This West Is OUR West

Washington state lawmaker Matt Shea defends advocacy for 'Holy Army' as Spokane sheriff refers his writings to FBI

Originally published November 1, 2018 at 2:00 pm  |  Updated November 2, 2018 at 10:29 am

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

In a video posted Wednesday, Shea argues that the United States is “a Christian nation” and asserts that his detractors are part of a so-called “counter state” made up of “Marxists” and “Islamists.”

By Chad Sokol - The Spokesman-Review

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea acknowledged Wednesday he had distributed a four-page manifesto titled “Biblical Basis for War,” which describes the Christian God as a “warrior,” details the composition and strategies of a “Holy Army” and condemns abortion and same-sex marriage.

The document is organized in 14 sections with multiple tiers of bullet points and a smattering of biblical citations. Under one heading, “Rules of War,” it makes a chilling prescription for enemies who flout “biblical law.”

After the document was leaked online Tuesday, the Spokane Valley Republican insisted he was not promoting violence and that the message had been taken out of context.

“First of all, it was a summary of a series of sermons on biblical war in the Old Testament as part of a larger discussion on the history of warfare,” Shea said in a Facebook Live video on Wednesday. “This document, in and of itself, was not a secret. I’ve actually talked about portions of this document publicly.”

In the video, Shea also complains about a recently published Rolling Stone profile that characterizes him as an extremist, he argues that the United States is “a Christian nation” and he asserts that his detractors are part of a so-called “counter state” made up of “Marxists” and “Islamists.” He dismisses criticism as nothing more than “smears and slander and innuendo and implication.”

He also delves into the philosophy known as “just war theory,” which has been endorsed by many mainstream Christians.

But critics of Shea — who embraces far-right conspiracy theories, associates with a fundamentalist religious group in northern Stevens County and champions a push for a 51st state called Liberty — saw something sinister in the document.

“The document Mr. Shea wrote is not a Sunday school project or an academic study,” Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich wrote in an email. “It is a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement and the Redoubt movement of the 1990s.”

Knezovich said he had obtained the document and other materials on a flash drive about six weeks ago.

“I gave it straight to the FBI,” he said.

The document caused a stir online Tuesday when it was shared by Tanner Rowe, a man from Nine Mile Falls, Spokane County, who said he had obtained it in August from a person close to Shea. The document’s metadata shows it was created by a Matthew Shea, though Shea does not say in his video whether he was the sole author.

Rowe and other sources said the document resembles the work of the Marble Community Fellowship, a Stevens County congregation that is said to practice a strain of fundamentalist Christianity known as dominionism.

The leader of the group, Barry Byrd, wrote a 1988 manifesto referring to Jews as “anti-Christs” and condemning interracial marriage, though members have since tried to distance themselves from racist ideology. Shea has been a featured speaker at Marble’s annual Fourth of July God and Country Celebration.

 “It truly is unnerving and, quite frankly, disgusting,” Rowe says in his own Facebook video. “This goes to show what the 51st state, or at least the leaders in it, what they really feel. They are not for liberty. They are for pushing biblical law, which is really no different than certain other fanatics that we have been against in the recent decades.”

Knezovich echoed that, noting in his email that Shea visited right-wing activists during their armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon in 2016.

“The goal of these groups has always been to create a white homeland consisting of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington,” Knezovich wrote. “The ideas presented in the (biblical war) document are how these groups intend to seize control, by force, should there be a governmental collapse or civil war.”