Matthew Shea, a far-right Republican member of the Washington state legislature, is under fire over the release of a document he wrote titled “Biblical Basis for War.” Among the “rules of war” it cites is, “If they do not yield—kill all males.”
Shea was also the topic of a recent unflattering Rolling Stone profile that documented his connections to extremist anti-government groups and called him “an extremist hiding in plain sight”—one who believes, for example, that the Oklahoma City bombing was an inside job. Noted Rolling Stone:
For several years, Shea has proposed the same initiative in the Statehouse: A place named “Liberty” — a 51st state that would sever the rural, arid and deep-red eastern half of Washington from the urban, forested, blue coastal region. A place where God and guns won’t be regulated. A place where Shea says, consequently, there will be more freedom.
Outraged to be facing high-profile criticism so close to the election, Shea has gone on the offensive, posting a video last week in which he charged that his critics are using a “Maoist insurgency model” and “political warfare” to discredit him and others like him “that love the Constitution, that love America, that love God and Jesus Christ, as somehow being racist hatemongers.” He said he expected “more of these attacks to ramp up as the counter-state realizes it’s beginning to lose this upcoming election.”
Shea’s big-picture defense against headlines about his document is that it is “a summary of a series of sermons on biblical war in the Old Testament as part of a larger discussion of the history of warfare” and conversation about just war theory. But a review of the actual document undermines Shea’s claim. First, it is not restricted to citing the Old Testament. It includes references to New Testament scriptures, as well as St. Augustine, to which Shea attributes, “Godless civil rulers are no more than bands of robbers.”
That quote is included in section of the outline titled “Biblically Dealing with Tyranny,” which begins with these points:
- Tyranny is never a divinely appointed means of government.
- A tyrant is someone who rules without God.
- Tyranny is not a lawful form of government.
Other quotes from the document include:
- “When the rule of law dies as sin prevails throughout the land, tyranny is not far behind.”
- “God doesn’t use majorities. The majority is usually wrong.”
- “Assassination to remove tyrants is just, not murder.”
Another sub-section of the document—which appears under the heading “Rules of War”—certainly sounds like something more than a study of the Old Testament. Here’s part of it:
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, a Republican and longtime critic of Shea, told the Spokesman-Review that Shea’s document is “not a Sunday school project or an academic study. 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.”
“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.”
Knezovich made a similar point in an interview with the New York Daily News:
“This document is not a sermon, this is a ‘how to’ manual for what they plan to do if there’s ever civil war or a government collapse. These people are focused on the apocalypse. And quite frankly, they’re happy to push that into happening,” Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told the Daily News.
Shea visited the anti-government zealots who carried out the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. He also joined the armed supporters of the Bundy ranchers who refused to pay the federal government fees they owed for grazing their cattle on public land, and he celebrated when federal agents walked away rather than spark a violent confrontation. From a 2015 story in the Inlander:
“We won and those tyrants tucked tail and they ran!” Shea yelled at a gathering in Idaho upon returning from the ranch. “And that’s the way it’s supposed to be in America! They’re supposed to be afraid of us and not the other way around!”
RWW noted back in 2014 that Shea wanted Tea Party members to stockpile ammunition in preparation for the country’s inevitable collapse. He said that year in an interview with Gun Owners for America director Larry Pratt that Americans are, like those during the Revolutionary War, divided between “patriots and loyalists.” Asked Shea, “Are you a loyalist or are you a patriot? Are you God-fearing, self-reliant, freedom-loving American, or are you a government-dependent, Constitution-ignoring socialist?”
In his recent video, Shea also argued that the U.S. is a Christian nation, seeking to prove his point with a long David Bartonesque tour of historical documents, beginning with the Mayflower Compact. He cited the 17th-Century words of John Winthrop to argue that the U.S. has a mission “to advance the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
In spite of his long record of associations with extremist groups and promotion of extremist ideology, Shea continues to enjoy the support of the local Republican Party. And, according to the Spokesman-Review, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, locked in a tight race for reelection, has accepted his endorsement.